Nurses and doctors across Michigan say they are being attacked by patients.
Katie Pontifex, a registered nurse at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, claims she was attacked by a patient in 2018.
“I personally have been one in four. I believe is the latest statistic of healthcare workers who have been injured on the job,” she said.
For three months after the attack, she was unable to fulfill her typical job duties.
She now claims that attacks, both verbal and physical, have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will walk into a patient room and ask family to please pull up your mask while we’re here. We get a lot of pushback in that regard. There are patients who demand certain treatments we may or may not be able to provide at that given time. Those are the kinds of verbal assaults that we’re seeing a rise in locally,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of incidents has gradually risen over the last decade. During the first six months of the pandemic, there were 611 COVID-19-related attacks, according to data. One in every five attacks was physical, and 15% contained fear-based discrimination. Another 15% involved verbal assaults or threats.
“If you talk to almost any healthcare worker, sadly, they have a horror story about the violence that they’ve experienced on the job,” said Adam Carlson, the senior vice president of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
The organization published a series of workplace safety posters informing patients of the repercussions of assaulting healthcare personnel. However, while Michigan has a law protecting first responders from workplace violence, it does not have one protecting health care providers.
“As of right now, we’re extremely hopeful that a bill will be introduced this session, that the state legislature can bring up and work towards passing,” Carlson said.
According to a statement from Henry Ford Health System, there hasn’t been an increase in aggression towards team members overall, but incidents do occur in relation to Covid safety measures and visitation regulations.