CT hospitals address rise in violent attacks on workers

Now, hospitals and state lawmakers are taking action.

John Craven

Oct 20, 2023, 9:34 PM

Updated 273 days ago

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It’s a startling statistic: Each day, five hospital workers are assaulted on the job, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association.
Now, hospitals and state lawmakers are taking action.
“URINE THROWN AT ME”
On Friday, CHA launched a statewide “Patient and Family Code of Conduct”. It specifically prohibits violent behavior, as well as abusive and discriminatory language.
Teresa Marks, an emergency room nurse at UConn Health, said assaults happen every day – and they’re getting more brazen.
“I had urine thrown at me from a urinal because I was taking care of a critical patient in another room,” she told reporters. “I've had co-workers who have been hit in the head. I've had co-workers that have had to have stitches because they've been punched in the face.”
Hospital executives said the growing violence is making it harder to attract people to the field, which could ultimately mean longer waits for patients.
“There is a shortage of health care workers,” said Ena Williams, Yale New Haven Hospital’s chief nursing officer. “We cannot continue to create an environment where people feel safe.” SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
The problem is getting so bad that state lawmakers are now stepping in. A bill this year would have created a Hospital Security Grant Program to pay for more guards and cameras, but the final law removed the funding. “It was watered-down, like many bills at the Capitol, in order to get it across the finish line,” said state Sen. Henri Martin (R-Bristol).
Hospitals can still apply for grants from Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, as well as federal assistance.
In the meantime, health care facilities are taking matters into their own hands. At Stamford Hospital, which saw two serious incidents this week, staff are now trained in de-escalation techniques.
“A calm voice, letting the person know you're going to address their issues,” said Stamford Health CEO Kathy Silard. “Maybe removing them from the stressful environment.”
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
But hospitals executives said their efforts are often in vain. They want tougher penalties for assaulting health care workers, and are asking prosecutors to take the crime seriously.
“We go through all that process, and that person is just let go,” said Kurt Barwis, CEO at Bristol Hospital. “And they're back, and they're doing it again.”


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