Burlington, VT- Healthcare workers are speaking up after a chaotic scene over the weekend.
Police say a Saint Johnsbury man broke into a Burlington apartment, tried to assault a police officer, and punched a health official at UVM Medical Center.
The latest assault on a frontline medical worker at the hospital has staff on edge, and they say they’ve seen an uptick in violence in recent years.
Matt Looft, a charge nurse at UVMMC’s Emergency Room, said, “There have been staff that have been punched, picked, or spit on. We’ve had staff stabbed or had broken bones; facial bones, arms, and hands.”
Looft first detailed his personal experience to the New York Times after getting assaulted two years ago, and he tells us it shook him to his core.
Looft said, “After that specific assault, it changed the way that I care for patients, and that really broke my heart because I felt like I was at a heightened state and was scared to take care of people.”
While he adds there has always been an increased risk when working in emergency medicine, Looft says in the last decade and a half that he has worked in the medical center’s emergency department, the risk has changed. Looft said, “I think that risk has increased. It’s really universal.”
Doctor Julie Veith, the medical director of the emergency department says health care workers are five times more likely to suffer a violent workplace injury.
Veith said, “We don’t have a grasp on every single minutia that is contributing to this. We do know that our emergency department is a microcosm of what is going on outside the emergency department in society.”
Veith and other health officials say mental health and policing tactics all play a part in the increased risk, and she says a bill that was passed in the legislature in June has given them some options.
“It allows us to be able to file police reports, without the police having to witness the events themselves,” Veith said, “It categorizes these assaults on healthcare workers similar to the way domestic violence victims are able to file these types of reports.”
And Vieth says the hospital has added more security measures, and trained staff in de-escalation situations to make them more prepared for dangerous situations.