June 15, 2017

After Harrington stabbing, nurses call for greater protections

Courtesy/Harrington HealthCare
After a nurse was stabbed at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, the state nurses association called for more safety measures for medical workers.

After a nurse was attacked on Wednesday while on the job at at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, the state nursing association called for more aggressive safety measures to protect workers at hospitals statewide.

At 10:17 a.m. Wednesday, a Harrington nurse was attacked by a patient after he cornered her in the hospital's triage area and stabbed her. The nurse, who as of Wednesday was in critical, stable condition, was immediately cared for at Harrington and then transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, according to Joseph Early, the Worcester County district attorney.

More than 70 percent of hospital emergency room nurses are assaulted at some point during their career, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Nurses are assaulted on the job more often than police officers and prison guards.

"Nurses have a very difficult job. This goes to what they face every day," Early said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to a video.

The suspect in the Harrington stabbing, 24-year-old Conor O'Regan of Southbridge, immediately fled the hospital following the incident and was apprehended by Southbridge police, Early said. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Dudley District Court and charged with aggravated assault and battery with a weapon and assault with intent to murder. A dangerousness hearing and mental health evaluation will also be administered, Early said.

The hospital was put on lockdown following the incident, said Joseph Klimavich, a spokesman for Harrington. Public safety workers, who are already stationed at the entrance to the emergency department, are now screening everyone who presents in the emergency room while longer-term responses are under discussion, he said.

"The response from our staff was nothing short of heroic," said Klimavich. "Emergency personnel immediately went to work saving the life of their colleague."

The legislature is considering a bill to require healthcare employers to perform an annual safety risk assessment and, based on those findings, develop and implement programs that minimize the danger of workplace violence to employees and patients. The bill would also give assaulted healthcare workers time off to address legal issues and require semiannual reporting of assaults on employees.

Early, a strong supporter of nurses, has worked with the MNA to promote the legislation, according to the association.

"I'd like to thank emergency room personnel, specifically the nurses and doctors, for their quick response, and [for] the way that they reacted to the scene to help save the victim's life, a job that was made even more difficult under the added stress of the fact that they were working on their friend," said Early.

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