Rise in assaults on Santa Clara County medical workers amid pandemic

Every year, hundreds of health care workers in Santa Clara County hospitals are assaulted on the job, and some said the COVID-19 crisis has only made things worse.

Each day, hospital workers reported, they fear getting punched, kicked and physically assaulted by their patients.

“Some of these assaults are very bad - very violent, where the nurse has to go to the emergency room, or have surgery, or be on medical leave,” said Jennifer Hughes, who is a nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Hughes said many cases are underreported because the process is lengthy and departments are busy.

“It takes about 20 minutes to fill out an incident report when you’ve been assaulted,” Hughes said. “Nurses are just so tired or they’re in shock. They don’t have the energy, and so a lot of these crimes are not even being reported.”

Hughes also said the COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the already concerning situation.

“We already risk our lives coming to work, taking care of COVID patients,” she said. “To add on the fact that we’re being assaulted, it’s just really hard.”

The County of Santa Clara has drafted a workplace safety taskforce to hear from healthcare workers and try to mend the growing problem.

Meanwhile, Hughes said assaults on nurses should be considered a felony, so hospital employees can feel safe coming to work.

“Nothing is worth dying for,” Hughes said.