Violence against health workers increases during COVID-19
Violence against health workers has “worsened further” since the COVID-19 pandemic, but new strategies are tackling the problem. reports Jacqui Thornton.
A new joint study by the International Council of Nurses, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Hospital Federation and the World Medical Association has found that violence against doctors is endemic, regardless of the security situation in ‘a country. Additionally, survey respondents believed that violence by patients or their families against healthcare workers has worsened and become more frequent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 120 responses were received to the 31-question survey from May to July 2021. The resulting report, released on July 19, found that among organizations that had received reports of violence, 58% of respondents perceived a increase, 30% disagreed and 12% were unsure. 9% of those who reported violence said it had not happened before the pandemic. All reported verbal aggression; 82% mentioned physical threats and attacks while 27% reported that staff were threatened with weapons. 21% reported the death or serious injury of a healthcare worker or patient.
International Council of Nurses chief executive Howard Catton said concrete action was needed to end impunity for violent people. “This report highlights that the threats, attacks and violence faced by nurses and other healthcare workers have further escalated during the pandemic. Employers and governments have a duty to care for their staff and to investigate and punish when attacks on health care occur.
The authors said The Lancet in an email that, for their organisations, “the added value of the report is that it has highlighted great coping mechanisms that could inspire others to also take action to prevent violence against care health and changing the reality of the violence they might face”.
Dr Luisa Pettigrew, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a general practitioner in the UK, said it was deeply concerning to see this was a universal problem given the context of shortages world of health workers. She agreed that despite the very small sample size, the study still demonstrates that this issue affects different contexts and should help focus the attention of health officials in each country to better understand the issues they face. .
The survey shows the importance of improving relationships between healthcare staff and patients and family members, with most participants suggesting training in communication skills as an effective measure to de-escalate potentially violent situations. Despite the persistence of violence, practical solutions exist. The report highlighted successful strategies from Bulgaria, Colombia, Italy, Portugal and Taiwan that could be implemented globally.
According to the report, the Portuguese Association for Hospital Development said the frequency of violent events has been reduced from 9 cases per 1,000 workers to 4 cases per 1,000 workers in the year since the start of the pandemic, using the data of a 14-year-old online survey. reporting system. This decrease is due to a series of measures, including the creation of a remote video call hotline, available 24 hours a day with trained specialist support, and the identification of a security focal point for staff to coordinates with security guards.
In Italy in 2020, after lobbying by nurses, the country’s parliament approved a new law to combat violence against health workers, which extended prison sentences from 4 to 16 years for people who cause violence. serious or very serious injuries to healthcare personnel and increased the administrative penalty from €500 to €5,000 for an act which, if not a crime, involves violence, abuse, misdemeanor or harassment to the against health workers. A national day of education and prevention of violence against health personnel (March 12) has been created to raise public awareness on the subject.
In Taiwan, the nurses’ association has set up a reporting mechanism for violent incidents in hospitals, with regular reporting of incidents targeting healthcare workers inside and outside the hospital. Once incidents are investigated, lessons are incorporated into safety management practices and staff education and training.
Pettigrew said: “The report should be essential reading for governments, healthcare employers and other stakeholders such as the media and healthcare users. It is a wake-up call for all countries to better understand how violence affects their health workforce and the quality of services, in order to take action to end it.
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