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Hospital assaults go unrecorded

Assaults against Wairarapa Hospital staff are on the rise.
However, the hospital’s emergency department head said the real number is likely much higher than reported figures.
Hospital staff were on the receiving end of 29 physical or verbal assaults from patients over the 2021-2022 financial year, an increase of nine from the previous year.
More than half of the assaults left staff nursing injuries.
Wairarapa’s emergency department recorded three assaults against staff between April 1 and March 31 last year.
Two assaults have been recorded so far this year, but emergency department head Dr Norman Gray said most go unreported.
“In the emergency department, there is an understanding that these people act out because they’re drunk, stressed, in pain, and getting impatient. You’re not going to call the police just because they’re drunk and in pain.
“It’s not just doctors and nurses, there’s orderlies, clerical staff, receptionists. Our ward clerk gets it the most.”
Gray said he was unaware of any staff requiring hospitalisation from the assaults.
Of the 29 assaults recorded in the past financial year, 16 resulted in injury to staff, an increase of three from the previous year.
Gray said verbal assaults were the most common and could be worse than physical injury.
“Staff receive threats and abusive language.
“It’s not as serious as in bigger hospitals like Wellington. On the whole, most Wairarapa patients are very polite and appreciative.
“But it’s still unpleasant when it happens, and the staff are expected to carry on working.”
The Times-Age contacted police for comment on incidents at the hospital between staff and patients but were asked to direct queries to Wairarapa Hospital.
Questions to Te Whatu Ora regarding the number of assaults across different hospital wards, and incidents requiring security intervention were treated as an Official Information Act request, due at the end of this month.
Workplace health and safety regulator, Worksafe said it was not notified of any assaults against staff at Wairarapa Hospital between March 2021 and April 2022, and said no investigations were currently underway.
A spokesperson said that in general, assaults toward staff should be reported to the police, but aggressive or violent patient behaviour was a known risk in the health sector.
“In the first instance, WorkSafe expects employers to take reasonable action to mitigate that risk wherever possible so that assaults are less likely to occur in the first place.
“After an incident, WorkSafe would expect employers to take steps to help ensure a safe work environment, supporting both mental and physical health. This could include offering post-incident EAP [employment assistance programme counselling] and including workers in incident reviews.”


Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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