A security guard assaulted at Waikato Hospital "suffered severely" and sustained a fractured skull and major facial injuries, says a union worker who has visited her.

The woman and three nurses were assaulted on one of the hospital's surgical wards at around 2am.

It is believed a patient used an oxygen cylinder to assault the staff.

The nurses suffered minor injuries while the security guard suffered fractures to her skull, cheek bone, eye socket and jaw bone, a broken right arm and fractured fingers, said E tū Waikato senior organiser Iriaka Rauhihi. She has undergone multiple surgeries.

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Her family were devastated, she said.

"They want to know why mum wasn't safe. Her family is pretty upset and they want answers from her employer, Allied Security."

A Waikato DHB spokesman said today the security guard had been moved from the high dependency ward and is now stable on a ward.

The Convenor of E tū's Runanga, Sharryn Barton, is a former security guard who had previously worked at the secure unit at Henry Bennett, Waikato Hospital's mental health unit.

Barton said she was shocked by the news of the assault, but "not surprised".

"I think that woman was very brave to do what she did. She acted instinctively and stepped in."

Rauhihi said the woman has full support from E tū. "We are now calling on DHBs to have a shared responsibility for working conditions."

E tū industry coordinator Sam Jones said assault is a daily risk for hospital security guards who are routinely understaffed and frequently poorly trained.

"Most guards are too afraid to speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs, but we know of at least six cases where security guards have suffered serious assaults in our hospitals."

Barton said a guard's role can be a grey area, "security guards are not the police, they are observers really. If a situation arises they are to call the police".

Jones said the union will be pushing WorkSafe to designate security as a high-risk occupation – a view shared by some security firms and the New Zealand Security Association.

Rauhihi said, "the industry is the problem".

Barton said most people working as security guards are tangata whenua, Pacific Islanders and other migrants and women.

"These are the most easily exploited workers. All they want is to look after their families, bring home a good wage, and participate in the community.

"Most of the time they end up having to accept minimum wage."

Barton said a Fair Pay Agreement would benefit the people in the industry.

"It would maintain minimum standards of health and safety, litigate and relieve the race to the bottom."

"It would ensure security for workers."