SECURITY at Craigavon Area Hospital is being provided by porters, according to the Department of Health.
Usually involved with collecting patients on the wards, clearing the operating room, bagging up clinical waste, pushing and pulling heavy equipment, taking trolleys to sterile services and fetching and carrying duty, porters at the two Southern Area hospitals, Craigavon and Daisy Hill, are also being tasked with protecting staff and patients in place of security staff.
Craigavon has not been without serious incident: in July 2011 a man attacked three members of staff at Craigavon Area Hospital in the middle of the afternoon. The workers - believed to be nurses - received what police described as “puncture wounds” but were able to return to work.
Staff at local emergency departments including Craigavon and South Tyrone Hospitals have been assaulted so severely that police had to intervene on a total of 38 separate occasions in the last year.
Across Northern Ireland there were 175 incidents in the last year when police officers were called to Emergency Departments. That works out at more than thee per week or one every other day.
In comparison to Craigavon Area, other hospitals have full time security staff providing around the clock protection: The Royal Victoria Hospital employs 39 full time security staff while Belfast City and Musgrave Park have 21 and 22 security staff respectively.
Even smaller hospitals such as Downe, Holywell and Antrim each have two staff members tasked specifically to protect people in the hospital.
A spokesperson from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said, “Our Acute hospitals have trained security porters on site who are trained in dealing with violent and aggressive patients and visitors.
“On a risk assessment basis, a range of staff are also trained in how to manage violent situations. The Trust has clear protocols to guide staff on how to request immediate assistance from security porters or the PSNI, if necessary.
“The Trust is committed to protecting staff to ensure that they can provide a quality service without the fear of abuse.
“Any staff member who is involved in such incidents will receive immediate treatment from the Emergency Department and will be offered counselling and support.”
The Southern Trust’s acute hospital network now serve a population of over 360,000 with patients being treated in both hospitals from outside the southern area.
The data was disclosed following a question to the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots, from Oliver McMullan, Assemblyman for East Antrim.
Porters also carry out security duties at Altnagelvin Hospital while security at the Erne Hospital is a contracted-in service and security staff are not directly employed by the Western HSC Trust.
The contracted workers are part-time. Only part-time staff are employed to provide security at Tyrone & Fermanagh and Tyrone County Hospitals.