Feds Say Texas Children’s Failed To Protect Staff

Texas Children's Hospital building in Houston. | Image by JHVEPhoto, Shutterstock

The Department of Labor ruled last Tuesday that Texas Children’s Hospital has failed to protect its employees against aggressive and violent patients.

The ruling was part of a review of Texas Children’s Hospital conducted by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a May news release explained.

It was spurred by the violent assault of a hospital security officer by a patient in November of last year.

The officer was repeatedly kicked by the patient after being dragged down to the floor by the hair. After falling unconscious during the assault, the officer was hospitalized for the injuries sustained.

The ruling further recommended fining the hospital $15,625.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify workplace violence occurring in hospitals as falling under three general categories: threats, muggings, and physical assaults.

A survey from National Nurses United found that 48% of hospital nurses saw an uptick in workplace violence in 2022. This is a 119% increase year over year compared to a previous survey.

As The Dallas Express reported, some healthcare professionals have taken the initiative to educate their peers in tactics of violence prevention in response to this increase in workplace violence and overall feelings of being unsafe.  

In the case of Texas Children’s Hospital, OSHA’s investigation concluded that the hospital had exposed its staff working with patients suffering from behavioral health issues to physical threats and assaults.

It also highlighted the hospital’s lack of adequate policies and procedures in place to shield employees from patients exhibiting violent behavior.

The consequences of failing to protect hospital staff are multifold, including contributing to the looming shortage of nurses seen today. As The Dallas Express reported, the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies predicted that Texas would face a shortage of nurses by 2032.

The CDC has identified a need for every hospital to have a program in place that develops violence prevention strategies tailored to the specificities of the facility and the patients typically seen.

This is recommended to approach the issue of workplace violence from multiple levels, such as administrative, behavioral, and environmental, with the overall goal of preventing it in the first place but managing it when it does occur.

“Healthcare employers must protect their employees, particularly those in contact with aggressive or potentially aggressive patients, from the danger of being attacked by a patient,” explained Mark Briggs, OSHA’s director in Houston, according to the news release. “Employers must have certain effective policies and procedures in place so employees don’t have to work in fear of their safety.”

In response, the hospital released a statement disagreeing with OSHA’s ruling.

“Texas Children’s has strong safety protocols and training procedures in place and we are constantly optimizing our processes to ensure a safe environment,” the hospital countered, according to Click 2 Houston.

According to OSHA, employers like Texas Children’s Hospital have 15 days to contest the agency’s rulings.

Nonetheless, the ruling against Texas Children’s Hospital serves as a stark reminder of the escalating issue of workplace violence faced by healthcare workers.

Two hospital workers were shot and killed by a parolee at Dallas Methodist Hospital last October, as reported by The Dallas Express.

A new bill named the Pokuaa-Flowers Act after the victims of this incident was recently passed by Texas lawmakers.

As The Dallas Express reported, the act requires anyone on parole for a violent crime or wearing an ankle monitor who wants to visit a hospital campus to verify the time, date, and purpose of their visit. The visit also must be cleared with the individual’s parole officer beforehand.

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