The assault on a female security guard at Wanganui Hospital this week is just the tip of the iceberg, a staff member says.
Hospital staff found the woman unconscious early Monday after she had been attacked.
"Putting a woman security officer on on her own is an absolute joke," said a hospital staff member, who did not want to be identified.
She has been working at the hospital for more than 10 years and said that staff - particularly nurses - were being intimidated and abused every week.
She called the Chronicle after reading stories about the assault on the security guard, and said safety was a widespread issue in the hospital, mainly due to understaffing and a lack of control over visitors.
The Whanganui District Health Board website says visiting hours are 2pm to 8pm daily, but can be flexible for the Emergency Department, Children's Ward, Critical Care Unit or Acute Assessment Unit.
The woman said staff had "no control over visitors". It was common to have 10 to 20 family members visiting one patient and many of them became "volatile" towards staff.
"Recently, we've had nurses being intimidated because of race," she said, referring to a family making racial slurs against nurses of Indian, Fijian and Asian descent.
She said staff had been hit, had things thrown at them, and been grabbed roughly, leaving bruises.
"Some night staff had to lock themselves in the smoko room. There's a big hole in one of the doors where a patient attacked the door.
"A lot of them come in and they're already hyped up on God knows what."
She said some patients discharged themselves because they felt unsafe in the wards, and she had received serious threats and often felt unsafe.
People had raised their fists at her, pointed fingers in her face and stood close to intimidate her.
The woman said there was no use complaining. There was a report to fill out if staff had complaints, but she had never seen anything come from it.
More regulation on visiting hours would help with the safety, as well as more staff.
"We're so understaffed, it's unbelievable," she said. "Nurses can have up to seven patients [and] you're dealing with six volatile families."
Nurses did what they could to provide good service but had to be mindful there was "no support from management".