Health care workers urge lawmakers to take action after record number of assaults reported

ATLANTA — During the strain of pandemic and patient overflow, metro Atlanta hospitals are seeing a record number of verbal and physical assaults leveled against nurses and staff members.

Now, nurses are asking state lawmakers to do something to keep them safe.

Healthcare workers have not only battled COVID-19 over the past year and half, but they’ve also battled a growing number of violent patients.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was at the State Capitol Thursday morning as nurses took their terrifying stories to state lawmakers.

“We are not protected on our floors. I and many of my coworkers have seen simple assaults that happen every day. It’s just part of our job,” said one nurse who asked only to be identified as Destiny.

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She described how a female patient violently attacked her and several other nurses at a northeast Georgia hospital a few months ago.

“The patient attacked her, smashing her face off of the wall and off of the ground,” Destiny said. “She landed many kicks and punches to my head my neck. She ripped my hair out and attempted to drag me into the bathroom.”

With the stress of the pandemic and fewer resources to treat patients, many hospitals are at the breaking point.

Incidents of aggressive and violent patients are soaring here in metro Atlanta and across the country.

“Of the approximately 25,000 workplace assaults that have occurred over the last year, 75% were in health care,” said Deb Baily with the Northeast Georgia Health System.

But only 30% of nurses report incidents of violence.

Destiny filed criminal charges against the patient who attacked her, but later feared retaliation from the patient or her family.

“The sheriff’s department recommended that if I didn’t have security cameras installed around my house, I should install them,” Destiny said.

Grady Memorial Hospital has also seen a high spike in patience violence where security is called in.

“A week doesn’t go by where there isn’t some sort of assault, they have to jump in. But they too get assaulted without being involved in that type of incident,” said Lindsey Caufield with Grady Health System.

Healthcare workers would like to see tougher laws to discourage aggressive or violent patient behavior, like making it a felony if a patient assaults a health care worker not just in the ER, but any place in a hospital.

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