Violent incidents on the rise at St. Barnabas

April 28, 2010 6:03:06 PM PDT
Every big city hospital has some workplace violence, but at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx, the number of assaults against staff has jumped dramatically, leaving some doctors and nurses worried about their safety.Some resident doctors, nurses and security staff at St. Barnabas Hospital are alarmed by what they say is a dangerous increase in violent assaults against them by patients.

"I've seen patients assault doctors, I've seen patients assault security guards," said Dr. Sara Larey.

Documents show that last year, patient assault on St. Barnabas staff jumped more than 300% from 14 assaults in 2008 to 44 in 2009 : A security officer who's "punched in face", another reports being " hit with a chair", a doctor "punched in the eye".

Dr. Sara Larey spent 4 years as a resident at St. Barnabas Hospital.

"If you come to a hospital for care you should be safe, if you work at a hospital administering care, you should be safe and I think something more needs to be done," Dr. Larey said.

St. Barnabas says that this sudden security concern is an attempt to embarrass the hospital in the middle of a dispute with resident doctors pushing to unionize. The hospital says the 3-fold increase in assaults is easy to explain.

"The numbers are misleading and I believe it's due in large part to better reporting, an increased importance on reporting any type of assault or incident to any staff member or employee," Dr. Ernest Patti, the Chief of ER Operations at St. Barnabas explained.

The hospital says 44 assaults is low when considering it handled more than 100,000 emergency room patients last year. But compare that to Lincoln Hospital also in the Bronx which treated 150,000 ER patients, yet had just 20 assaults.

A former St. Barnabas security guard says he quit last year after he was attacked by a violent AIDS patient which required the guard to undergo 28 days of HIV treatment.

"When we asked for more security, they'd say well, you know, we gotta go with the budget or we're trying to hire someone, give us some time, which is never," former guard Steve DeRosa said.

While St. Barnabas has seen a 10% increase in ER patients in the last 3 years, its security staff is slightly smaller: 62 guards down from 64. But, the hospital insists it's level of security is robust.

"Our policy has always been to have an open door in our emergency. We don't turn any body away. We're working diligently to keep the security of both the patients and staff, you know safe and well," said Dr. Patti.

Another doctor at the hospital told Eyewitness News, he believes the attacks indicate a real problem that needs serious attention.

The hospital says most of the incidents have been minor.

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