Kansas City system's security director says violence in hospitals to worsen in 2023

As lawmakers propose and pass bills aimed at protecting healthcare workers' safety, some staff members at health systems are expressing concerns over the amount of increased violence seen in 2023. 

In the first week of May, police shot a woman in a Georgia hospital ER after she barricaded herself and resisted help from medical staff, an Oklahoma hospital went into lockdown after receiving threats of a shooting, and a gunman killed one person and injured four others in an Atlanta hospital. 

Healthcare workers are also facing more physical attacks — which are becoming more violent. In Massachusetts, someone was physically assaulted, verbally abused or threatened every 38 minutes in a healthcare facility in 2022. That figure was 49 minutes in 2021 and 57 minutes in 2020. 

In a Kansas Hospital Association report, 46 percent of hospitals reported workplace violence in 2022.

Elijah Thompson, director of physical security at Kansas City, Mo.-based Saint Luke's Health System, told NBC affiliate KPVI he expects violence in hospitals this year to surpass 2020, 2021 and 2022 numbers. 

Employees at Saint Luke's have experienced concussions, dislocations and bite wounds from patients, he said.

"Hospitals are complicated environments," Mr. Thompson told the outlet. "They're already filled with a lot of emotions. We always say some of the best parts of life and some of the worst parts of life all happen under our roof, and we're looking at the best way to manage all of that."

Heidi Boehm, program manager for enterprise initiatives at Kansas City, Kan.-based KU Health Systems, told KPVI the risk of workplace violence is "taking a tremendous toll on our healthcare workers."

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