It may be a macabre coincidence, but almost on the same day in late February that a key lawmaker reintroduced legislation in Congress to order hospitals and nursing homes to create and implement plans to prevent violence against nurses on the job, the D.C. City Council learned that a mental health patient had attacked a 71-year-old nurse a month before. The difference this time is that the nurse, who suffered a badly bruised face and two fractured ribs, bravely went on local television in D.C. to tell her story, show her injured face and lobby for change to protect her and others like her. The national legislation, pushed for years by National Nurses United, would use the federal government’s leverage over hospitals and nursing homes, through Medicare and Medicaid, to force them to create and implement workable plans to prevent what happened to Lateefat Ayodeji-Coker at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The patient went berserk, escaped his restraints, and jumped over the counter at a nursing station at Saint E’s, as it’s known locally. He grabbed a telephone and beat her badly with it on Jan. 13. But the beating didn’t come to light until a city council Health Committee oversight hearing a month later (St. Elizabeth’s nurses demand action on job safety
2/12 UC). Ayodeji-Coker said if Saint E’s management had installed a higher barrier in front of the nurses at the station, the patient would never have gotten over it. The D.C. Nurses Association, an NNU affiliate which represents Saint E’s nurses, among others, has been campaigning to get higher barriers at the nurse stations there. DCNA has also argued for full-time security officers at each Saint E’s nurses station. There were none when the patient, who has a history of violence, attacked Ayodeji-Coker. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, HR 1309, introduced Feb. 21 by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn, “mandates the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration create a national standard requiring health care and social service employers to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan.” The House Education and Labor Committee plans a hearing on it in late February or early March.
- Mark Gruenberg, PAI staff writer