ASSAULTS ON nurses in Irish hospitals are on the increase due to staff shortages, it has been claimed.
Embargoes on staff recruitment are having a direct impact on the number of violent incidents in hospital A&Es and nursing homes, according to SIPTU's National Nursing Officer, Louise O'Reilly.
The union's comments have been made just two days after two young married men pleaded guilty to beating up a staff nurse at Beaumont Hospital during a dispute with one of their relatives.
Stephen Gavin (26) and Patrick Ward (27) from Coolock, Dublin kicked and punched staff nurse Stephen McDonald, in the chest when he tried to break up the fight last September 1, 2009. The two men will be sentenced by the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next year.
Ms O'Reilly told the Herald: "It's definitely worse now because the staffing levels are worse, and health and safety is compromised when there's not enough cover for training in prevention of violence and assaults.
"Anecdotally, we have information that when staff levels go down, there's a direct increase in violence. It's very bad at the moment, and staff have less time to report it.
"In Cork, a nurse was punched in the nose by a patient, and she reported it to the guards, but nurses don't often report it. In A&E I would encourage nurses to report incidents to the guards."
Alcohol is the main contributors to patients' violence in hospitals, according to SIPTU.
"There's a whole spectrum of incidents, but in A&E generally the violence is associated with alcohol, and incidents when you have people under the influence but you don't have sufficient staff to look after them."
She added: "When dealing with issues around addiction, festive occasions would be worse, and where you have increased demand and reduced staffing levels, the level of violence is naturally going to increase."