TIGHTER sanctions have been called for after it was revealed that, on average, four incidents of violence against Western Trust staff are reported every day.
The shock figures showed there were over 1,300 incidents in the period from April to September 2020.
“This level of assaults against medical workers is absolutely deplorable," said West Tyrone MLA., Daniel McCrossan.
"These are staff who are giving it their all and saving countless lives all the while working through a pandemic.
“There needs to be tighter sanctions for those attacking our healthcare workers. There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy both in theory and in practice. Those responsible should be apprehended and given tougher sentences. I do believe alcohol and drug abuse are major factors in these attacks.
“For patients suffering from mental illness, more support is needed to ensure healthcare workers are fully protected and have the necessary support that they need.”
Andy McKane, the chairperson of the local branch of UNISON, believes there is a "complacency creeping in that it’s acceptable to verbally assault staff".
He added: "This is totally unacceptable and must be addressed.
"If this is not addressed then there is a danger verbal assaults can escalate into physical assaults.
"A zero-tolerance policy must be implemented rigorously and where necessary the PSNI contacted.
"No one should be verbally assaulted at their work never mind physically assaulted.
"This needs urgent attention so that healthcare staff can perform their duties without the fear of being assaulted and with the confidence that they have the full support of senior management and the law if need be."
Health Minister Robin Swann is leading a call by health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service for the public and for politicians to support staff.
Mr Swann said he takes abuse towards staff “extremely seriously”, describing it as “wholly unacceptable”.
“Everyone has the right to feel safe from the threat of violence and aggression in the workplace,” he said.
“Staff spend their working days caring for others and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount.
“It is wholly unacceptable that they should be abused or attacked in the course of their duties.”
Mr Swann said he is committed to reducing the risk of violence and aggression wherever possible and creating a safe environment for staff, patients and others who use the services.
"Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in numbers of attacks and we must all as a society reject such despicable behaviour and protect our frontline staff and services,” he said.
“They are already facing unprecedented pressures and need our support now more than ever.”
Each health and social care trust operates a local Zero Tolerance on Abuse of Staff policy to manage and minimise the risk to employees.
The policies aim to ensure that all staff are aware of, and are protected from, as far as is reasonably practical, violent or potentially violent situations that may occur within trust facilities and/or whilst staff are on duty.
Trusts have established a regional Zero Tolerance Task and Finish Group which has been working in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders to develop a regional Managing Violence and Aggression policy framework.