Attacks Against Healthcare Workers Under-reported Official Says

Liz Carey

Newton, MA ( – Recent attacks on healthcare workers are a continuation of a much under-reported trend, officials say.

Recently in Newton, Massachusetts, four staff member of Newton-Wellesley Hospital were injured during an incident with a patient, officials said.

Officials with the hospital said the behavioral health unit patient was part of an incident with five staff members. Four of those staffers were treated and released for injuries, officials said. When law enforcement officers responded to the hospital, they were able to de-escalate the situation and the patient was able to receive treatment. Officials said the Department of Mental Health was notified.

“Immediately following the incident, our public safety officers increased their presence on both inpatient psychiatry units supplementing their usual rounding throughout the hospital,” officials with the hospital said in a statement. “Newton-Wellesley Hospital also routinely trains our employees on de-escalation techniques and employees on this unit had recently completed de-escalation exercises designed to address incidents like these. Newton-Wellesley Hospital takes incidents such as these very seriously and the safety of our patients and staff are always our top priorities.”

The Massachusetts Nurses Association said the assaults on healthcare workers is not uncommon. An estimated 70 percent of emergency nurses report having been assaulted over the course of their careers, the association said.

“This is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, it is widely underreported,” Massachusetts Nurses Association Task Force on Workplace Violence Chair Karen Coughlin told WHDH. “That is just one of the things that is very well documented through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, through the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, through numerous medical journals and publications so it is just horrific when you hear it continuing.”

On August 4, an 18-year-old man was charged with murder after he attacked a nurse at the Elgin Mental Health Center in Elgin, Illinois.

Travis Turner was charged with attempted first-degree murder after brutally beating a nurse while he was a patient. Authorities said 46-year-old Rinah Ortega was alone in a room with Turner processing him as a new patient. Officials said the 6-foot 3-inch man beat the nurse resulting in injuries to her face, skull and upper body.

Pat Meade, the president of the Illinois Nurses Association, told WLS Chicago, attacks due to short staffing is a problem.

“That’s one of our biggest fears, is that, what if something happens when we are alone in the room with the patient,” Meade said.

Turner was charged with one charge of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

And in Lowell, Massachusetts, a nurse at Lowell General Hospital was injured when a patient hit her with a fire extinguisher.

Officials said Jean Paul Durand, a 65-year-old homeless man, was arrested August 7 at the hospital’s Saints campus for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Video surveillance of the incident showed Durand lift the fire extinguisher over his head and strike the nurse twice in the head while her back was turned on him as she entered information into a computer.

Another nurse saw the attack and drew Durand’s attention away from the victim, reports indicate. Durand then chased the second nurse around the nurse’s station with the fire extinguisher until he was subdued by security.

The hospital said it was looking into what happened.

“At Lowell General Hospital, the safety of our staff and patients is our highest priority,” the statement said. “Any harm that comes to our staff as they work to care for our patients is unacceptable. We are conducting a full review into the incident that took place on Saturday evening to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our dedicated staff.”

The attacks aren’t limited to nurses, however.

In an early-morning incident last week, New York police said a knife-wielding 26-year-old man attacked a first responder outside of the Bronx Zoo.

Officials there said the EMS worker was responding to a call and getting ready to transport a patient in an ambulance when the man, Daniel Carby, attacked the worker. Reports indicate that Carby scratched and bit the worker before threatening him with a knife.

The EMS workers was able to remove the patient from the ambulance before Carby climbed inside the vehicle and took off with it for a joy ride. Police officers later caught Carby in East Harlem and took him into custody.

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