Catholic hospitals remove crucifixes to prevent patients using them to attack staff

Healthcare and social services have the highest rate of nonfatal workplace injuries across all sectors in the US

Martha McHardy
Thursday 23 November 2023 15:19 GMT
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<p>A group of Catholic Church-run hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin have said they are doing away with crucifixes in a bid to prevent attacks on staff</p>

A group of Catholic Church-run hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin have said they are doing away with crucifixes in a bid to prevent attacks on staff

A group of Catholic Church-run hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin have said they are doing away with crucifixes in a bid to prevent attacks on staff.

Hospital Sisters Health System said wooden and metal crucifixes would be removed from its hospitals to prevent patients from using them to attack staff.

The organisation said the decision comes in response to “the changing healthcare landscape and the general increase in healthcare workers experiencing workplace violence.”

No specific incident triggered the move, Hospital Sisters said, but they noted “safer replacements” will be used in future. No further details were provided.

The organisation said removing the crucifixes was a last resort, with the health system stressing that all employees undergo training in “Management of Aggressive Behaviors” and those working directly with patients learn de-escalation methods.

Healthcare and social services have the highest rate of nonfatal workplace injuries across all sectors in the US, surpassing both manufacturing and construction by over 100,000 incidents.

According to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and social service workers are five times as likely to get injured at work than workers overall, with violence intensifying during the pandemic.

More than 5,200 nursing personnel were assaulted in the second quarter of 2022, equating to two nurses assaulted every hour, according to Press Ganey data.

The bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act was introduced in the Senate in September. The bill, tabled by Senators Joe Manchin and Marco Rubio, would make it a federal crime to knowingly assault hospital workers.

“Our nation’s healthcare workers tirelessly care for the health and well-being of communities across the country, even in the face of increased violence, threats and intimidation,” Senator Manchin said in a statement at the time. “This legislation would create a safer working environment for hospital staff, deter violent behavior and make sure that assailants are appropriately held accountable.”

The American Hospital Association has supported the legislation, calling it a “’significant step forward” in protecting healthcare workers.

“The sharp rise in violence against caregivers is clearly documented, yet no federal law exists to protect them,” AHA president and CEO Rick Pollack said. “Enactment of this bipartisan legislation would be a significant step forward in protecting our workforce. The AHA commends Senators Manchin and Rubio for their leadership on this issue.”

However, while nearly 40 states have passed laws to increase penalties for violence against healthcare workers, similar federal legislation has failed to pass. Last year, Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with creating violence prevention measure requirements for healthcare and social service workplaces.

The bill failed to advance before being reintroduced in April, but it has since stalled again.

In November, a former Hawaii psychiatric hospital patient was indicted on a murder charge in the stabbing death of a nurse at the facility.

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