The head of Whanganui Hospital's emergency department says staff are brushing off incidents of abuse from patients as "part of the job".

Last week , a study in the New Zealand Medical Journal stated violence and aggression towards staff in emergency departments was occurring more often than previously thought.

The report was based on a case study from Christchurch Hospital where staff were surveyed.

The head of the emergency department at Whanganui Hospital, Paul Delporto, said he posted a news story about the report on his Facebook page and agreed there were cases of staff mistreatment in Whanganui.


"I think they do get abused ... and I sort of agree that we just sort of take it as part of the job.

"A typical example is you bring someone in at 1 o'clock in the morning on Saturday and they're drunk and they're agitated.

"Are they agitated because of the condition at the time or are they really trying to be rude and cruel? Sometimes it's tough to separate out but I think we just say that's how the job is."

Delporto said it was likely staff were too busy to file incident reports for everything, but where it was serious police would be called.

"Very rarely and the last resort is you call the police and say 'hey it's time to go'.

"We had an incident where one of the nurses was actually punched ... not significantly injured but the question was are the police going to want to file it?

"I don't know exactly the outcome of that one .. but something like that where maybe somebody got a little more hurt you know you'd certainly want it reported."

He said it was sometimes difficult to draw the line between serious or not in a busy working environment.


"You get a nine-year-old who smacks you ... most people are just going to say 'Okay, I'm not going to report that'.

"It is time out of your day because you have all these other things going on ... now whether that's right or wrong, that's another conversation.

"The resiliency of what we see in the emergency department and the people that I work with ... you know, maybe we just brush it off more than we should."

Delporto said he tried to teach younger doctors and nurses to try and diffuse any situation by hearing out anyone who may be agitated.

The report in the NZMJ concluded that a failure to report violence and aggression in the emergency department impacted on the organisation's knowledge of the problem and ability to develop appropriate responses.