A TD who spent a night in St James’s Hospital emergency department has expressed his shock at the “intolerable” abuse and aggression faced by staff at the Dublin facility.
Roscommon-Galway TD Eugene Murphy said some attending the A&E department were verbally and physically aggressive, "in people's faces, on the point of pushing them. The shouting and roaring was intolerable".
The Fianna Fáil TD was treated overnight at St James’s for a minor health issue “which I’m glad to say is now hopefully resolved. I was there from early evening until about 6am the next day when I was discharged”.
But he was “shocked to see what staff – doctors, nurses, porters and security staff have to put up with”.
“A lot of it seems to be alcohol-related and it’s a terrible environment for patients but it’s extremely difficult for the staff, and this should not be happening in our public hospitals.”
He witnessed incidents a number of years ago when a family member was in hospital in Galway. And he knew at weekends there was some “aggressive carry on”.
But he was stunned by what was going on at St James’s.
He wondered “how many politicians realise what is going on at some of our hospitals”.
He said he had little understanding of how bad it was until he witnessed what hospital employees have to go through – “basically individuals abusing staff and having to be forcibly removed during the night”.
In one case “a man was so aggressive I saw maybe six staff removing him out through the emergency door right beside us”.
“This guy was fighting it with all his might and his foot was hitting off the trolleys people were lying on and moving them.”
He said the young man being removed “seemed to be making complaints about the hospital and a relative who had been there some time previously”, adding “I heard aggressive conversations in the public areas” near where patients were being treated.
Praising staff, he said “despite the pressures they were put under” they were “quite restrained but definitely had to remove people”.
“And I think it’s a very sad reflection on society.”
Irish Nursing and Midwives' Organisation (INMO) director of industrial relations Tony Fitzpatrick said: "Nobody should be abused or threatened at work. But for many of our members and other front-line health workers, it's sadly become an expected part of the job."
Up to June this year the HSE recorded 279 assaults, 249 of which, almost 90 per cent, were against nurses.
Mr Fitzpatrick, a former nurse, said in such cases “we fully expect employers to operate a zero-tolerance policy and prosecute offenders to protect workers”.
He added that “our members report that overcrowding and understaffing only makes this problem worse”.
“Frustrating wait times, overcrowded wards, and overworked staff can all lead to a pressure-cooker environment. Ultimately, a properly resourced health service would also be a calmer, safer place to work and receive care.”