Johannesburg – Bites, verbal and physical assault and even being hit with a drip stand are just some of what health care workers face from patients and colleagues in hospitals across Gauteng.
In a written reply to DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC Jack Bloom, Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said that 107 hospital staff had been attacked by patients, relatives or fellow staff members since January last year.
Victims included doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, health care workers, cleaners and security guards.
Tembisa Tertiary Hospital had the most attacks on staff with a total of 16, while at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital there were 13 attacks, Leratong had 12 and Pholosong had eight incidents.
Chris Hani Baragwanath, Dr George Mukhari, Helen Joseph and Far East Rand hospitals all had seven attacks on staff in this time period.
According to Ramokgopa, the identified reasons include frustrated or traumatised patients, alcohol abuse, bad attitudes and some psychotic mental health patients.
Many attacks take place at night or over the weekend, particularly in the casualty department.
At Tembisa Tertiary Hospital where the highest number of attacks were recorded, Ramokgopa said most of the staff affected were nurses and security personnel while most of the attacks took place at night and over the weekend and were perpetrated by psychiatric patients or visitors under the influence of alcohol.
Some of the more dramatic or serious assaults included a nurse threatening a colleague with a knife at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto.
At Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Pretoria, a doctor was assaulted with an umbrella by a patient’s relative.
Also at Dr George Mukhari Hospital, a mentally ill patient scratched and tried to strangle a nurse and at Far East Rand Hospital in Springs a psychiatric patient assaulted a security guard.
Staff at Leratong Hospital were also victims of abuse from patients and their families.
In one instance, a doctor was assaulted by an aggressive patient, and a professional nurse was attacked by two visitors who were intoxicated.
Gauteng’s psychiatric facilities were no exception, the report detailing a staff member being assaulted with an injection needle by a patient, following treatment at Weskoppies.
Injuries reported in the many attacks included cuts or lacerations, soft tissue injuries, bites and, in one case at Chris Hani Baragwanath, broken fingers.
Ramokgopa said that to prevent further attacks on medical staff, more security personnel had been deployed and visibility strengthened.
Panic buttons were supplied, CCTV installed and armed response made available.
“Security personnel will be placed at strategic points, more male nurses will be allocated to male wards, client waiting areas will be isolated from consulting rooms and casualty will prioritise their consultation to reduce agitation and waiting,” she said.
Bloom said that he was shocked at the high level of violence inflicted on health workers.
“Increased security can assist in bringing down the attacks, but the underlying cause is unfortunately the general violence and intolerance in our society,” he said.