"We're scared when we come to work in the emergency department; it causes a lot of stress and uncertainty, because we don't know what we'll find." These were the words of the healthcare assistant who suffered a sprain to the left hand on Sunday after it was twisted by a patient. The injured assistant was among the group of health workers who gathered outside the hospital on Tuesday to protest against violence shown by patients and their families and to call for greater security.
The patient in question, a Ukrainian woman, who attacked five members of staff during her visit on Sunday, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for assault against two healthcare workers at a "fast trial" this week and has been given a restraining order preventing her from going within 500 metres of the hospital.
"It can't go on like this. We need more security and more staff to reduce waiting time," added the injured assistant.
Staff at the A&E department face abuse and verbal insults almost daily, coming from both patients themselves and especially their relatives. "At the Clínico we've seen objects thrown across the room by patients. When the department is overcrowded there is nothing we can do," said the assistant.
The hospital's medical director, Eva Fragero, expressed her total rejection of any violence towards health professionals. She added that the hospital has means to reduce violent situations. "We have security controls and have given staff communication tools so they know how to manage difficult situations," she said.
Fragero added that the public must be made aware that when patients go to A&E, professionals are there to help them, not to receive abuse. "There must always be respect; aggression cannot be tolerated', she said.