BRCoreHealth.5904.jpg (copy)

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, as seen on Nov. 1, 2017. 

Two more Baton Rouge hospital patients were arrested this week following accusations of violence against medical workers.

These latest arrests come amid growing concerns about workplace safety for local hospital employees after a Baton Rouge General nurse died last month from complications resulting from a patient attack. Lynne Truxillo's death prompted members of the nursing community nationwide to demand better hospital safety practices to minimize their profession's dangers, which have long been a problem.

The patient in Truxillo's case was arrested on manslaughter. 

At least four other patients at Baton Rouge medical facilities have been arrested since then after incidents involving violence against hospital employees — including one on Tuesday and another Wednesday, both patients at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The cases raise questions about whether arresting patients is an effective response, particularly when mental health issues are involved.

A behavioral health patient was booked into jail Wednesday on two counts of battery of emergency room personnel.

The 33-year-old Baton Rouge man is accused of attacking another patient and two hospital employees, pushing them down on the ground and punching and kicking them. Arrest documents don't include details about the extent of the victims' injuries, but authorities did note that all three victims said they wanted to pursue charges against the patient.

That case follows the arrest of a Gretna man who was booked Tuesday after he slapped an emergency room employee, authorities said. The man told East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputies that he struck the employee in the face "to get out of this place and if (he) doesn't get out he will hit her again."

The slap caused the victim "to stagger back and become confused," deputies wrote in the arrest report. Her injuries didn't appear to be severe, but it was determined she suffered whiplash. She was also placed under concussion protocol and received pain medication for neck injuries.

The incident was recorded on video surveillance and witnessed by hospital security, authorities said. The man was booked into jail on battery of emergency room personnel.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

It's not clear from court documents why he checked into the emergency room in the first place and the arrest report provides few details about the circumstances surrounding his outburst or underlying medical conditions that could have affected his behavior.

But the man's mother told The Advocate he was admitted to the hospital's behavioral health unit for mental health treatment. She said her son — now 23 years old and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — has been hospitalized for inpatient psychiatric treatment 70 times since age 16. 

She said she has done everything in her power to find long-term care for her son. 

"I have copies of every discharge paper and email documenting the years that I have begged for help for my son," she wrote in an email. "Yet he slipped through the cracks, and when he slaps a hospital employee he is charged with a felony. … This state's mental health system is broken beyond repair and my son is paying for that."

She criticized the media for reporting on her son's arrest and overlooking the larger issue of healthcare access for people with mental illness.

The Advocate is withholding the names of the patients arrested for privacy reasons. 

Many advocates calling for better workplace safety also argue that arresting patients is not productive, especially if psychiatric issues are involved. Those advocates argue instead that healthcare facilities need to devote more resources to preventing violence before it occurs, including through adequate staffing levels and individual patient care plans.

There are no federal standards in place now governing how facilities protect their employees, but a bill was recently introduced in Congress that would implement two new requirements for hospitals: develop violence prevention plans and report all instances of violence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Experts also argue that better funding for mental health care would help protect medical workers, particularly in Louisiana where the state's notoriously underfunded psychiatric treatment system often leaves patients with nowhere to turn.

Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.