Wairarapa Hospital did not have security guards on hand when a man attacked a visitor in the emergency department with a machete just before midnight on Monday.

A 62-year-old man was taken into custody at the scene and was now facing a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Police said in a statement the victim and the offender were known to each other, and the victim received moderate injuries.

In a statement, police said a weapon, which they confirmed was a machete, had been recovered.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton said she was “reasonably certain there was no security staff present in the ED at that time”.

The man was disarmed by a doctor, attendants, and the patient herself.

She said there were a number of people in the ED, and it must have been “really frightening” for everyone involved.

She said it was not standard in small hospitals to have round-the-clock security in place in the ED.

“They may have one or more security staff on-site, but they may be far away from the emergency department,” she said.

Dalton said staff at the hospital were reporting feeling unsafe, but this sort of thing “never used to happen”, and it was “really shocking to longer-serving staff”.

“Some of the newer ones kind of expect the workplace to be violent, which is a really terrible thing to have to say about our hospitals.”

Te Whatu Ora Wairarapa group director operations Kieran McCann said in a statement following the incident, that extra security was placed in the emergency department and staff were being supported.

“We condemn all actions of violence against patients and staff. An investigation will take place into this incident to determine if there was anything which could have prevented it occurring.”

Security had been temporarily beefed up security over the Christmas period, with more security on-site. That had since been removed.

But Dalton said even that was not enough.

“We need better than that,” she said.

Those temporary staff were not trained in a hospital setting or de-escalation or restraint, she said, so they would not have been “a practical help” if an incident occurred.

She said a proper review was needed, and specific funding for ED security.