Violence Against Healthcare Professionals – Robust legislative measures needed to tackle violence against healthcare professionals. Do you agree?

Reports of harassment and violence against doctors and healthcare professionals continue to surface every now and then. For tackling this problem, former Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan recently stressed the need for appointing an Ombudsman to mediate between doctor and patient in cases of dispute. She said it at the launch of a book titled “Perils in Practice: Prevention of Violence Against Healthcare Professionals” in New Delhi last month.

The book is the joint effort of the Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to bring attention to this pressing issue. It provides guidance on protection such as more effective communication to enable healthcare workers to face the challenges of violence at healthcare institutions better.

Healthcare workers 4 times more likely to be assaulted

In India, there is a persistent and rising problem of violence against healthcare professionals. Each year, numerous violent acts against healthcare professionals occur all around the world. Over the past 10 years, violence against healthcare professionals has been a persistent, systematic, and expanding issue in India. The frequency of assaults against healthcare workers in India has significantly increased.

Workplace violence in the healthcare industry is defined by the World Health Organisation as any occurrence in which a member of the medical staff is mistreated, intimidated, or physically hurt while engaged in job-related activities, including travelling to and from work. It causes damage that spreads.

Dr. Tushau Prasad, Emergency Physician, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, said, “Compared to other professionals, healthcare workers are four times more likely to be assaulted, with junior physicians and nurses in government institutions being particularly vulnerable. Healthcare personnel appear to be more at risk while working in emergency rooms, critical care units, or remote locations, particularly early in the morning and late at night. Violence against healthcare workers is thought to have several major contributing factors, including miscommunication between healthcare workers and patients and their visitors, dissatisfaction with care, delayed medical provision, violation of visiting hours, the psychological strain on a patient’s family members, denial of hospital admission, and the sudden death of patients.”

“Conflicts within the healthcare system are mostly sparked by poor management brought on by inadequate staffing and resources in public hospitals, excessive expenses of care, and lengthy stays in private hospitals,” he added.

Widespread anxiety, mistrust, and misconceptions during COVID-19 increased violence towards healthcare personnel, according to Dr. Prasad.

How safety of healthcare professionals can be ensured?

Dr. Prasad suggested that governments should implement and enforce robust legislative measures to combat this expanding threat to the safety of healthcare professionals.

“The Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of violence and damage or loss to property) Act, which penalizes violent offenders, has so far been enacted in 25 Indian states and union territories (UTs). This statute makes any violence against healthcare professionals a non-bailable offence (apart from in Chhattisgarh) that is punishable by up to 50 000 rupees in fine and three years in jail (aside from in Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry),” he stated.

He acontinued, “India must make an investment in the monitoring of violent episodes at the national and local levels by building a comprehensive database that enables us to comprehend the true scope of the issue and develop a successful preventative strategy. Governments must take action to provide justice to healthcare professionals who have been subjected to violence and abuse while doing their duties, including the enactment of a federal statute and increased enforcement of already-existing state laws.”

Additionally, he pointed out that steps may be done inside hospitals to lessen the danger to staff members. He elaborated: Hospital management should have standardised procedures for violent situations. Interventions that can lessen violence against healthcare workers include infographics encouraging nonviolence, alarm systems, enhanced security, a strict no-weapons policy, grievance cells for resolving disputes, visitor restrictions, counselling for bereaved families, and mock drills that teach healthcare workers how to act quickly, such as alerting security in an escalating situation.

Finally, to manage or avoid encounters that turn hostile, healthcare professionals should get specific training in safety and the detection of early indications of violence.

“Healthcare professionals may lessen the effects of violent occurrences with the use of de-escalation training. However, social media groups made up of healthcare professionals may be utilised to send out emergency alerts if violence does break out. Additionally, conflicts brought on by misunderstandings can be decreased by integrating patients in decision-making and improving professional training on how to break bad news to patients and their families,” he added.

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