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Hawaiʻi nurse union calls for better protections against patient violence

emergency room queen's medical center hospital ambulance Virus Outbreak Hawaii Health Care
Caleb Jones/AP
In this Aug. 24, 2021, file photo an ambulance sits outside the emergency room at The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

The union representing nurses at The Queen's Medical Center is calling on management to better protect their workers from violence directed at them by patients and visitors.

The Hawaiʻi Nurses’ Association says front-line employees at Queen's facilities across Oʻahu have been harassed, threatened, and even assaulted on the job.

The association said nurses have been punched in the face resulting in black eyes and split lips, and a pregnant nurse was knocked cold when punched in the face by a patient.

Dan Ross, president of the association, says management has acknowledged that violence and threatening behavior against staff is a problem, but has done little to put a halt to it.

"If they took it very serious whenever a patient lashed out in violence against the staff, they would be out immediately, which is what we are calling for. They don't do that, in fact, they haven’t lived up to their word in reporting these incidents to us either," Ross said.

Ross says during their last round of contract negotiations they pushed hard for management to take concrete action to stop violence against nurses. But he says Queen's management often blames the nurses themselves for instigating it.

In a statement, The Queen's Health Systems said, "The safety of our patients and staff is the highest priority at The Queen’s Medical Center. Workplace violence is a troubling issue, nationally and locally, and we take all reports of violence against our patients and staff seriously."

"We have convened a Workplace Violence Prevention Committee which is committed to implementing best practices addressing workplace violence, and we look forward to continuing to work with our nurses, our employees, and our unions to keep staff safe when caring for our patients."

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