Doctors call for sanctions against rising health staff assaults

August 10, 2022 - 08:42
Leading doctors have said it is time the Ministry of Health proposes the Government issues sanctions against acts of violence and assault of medical staff in hospitals.


Police work with an assaulter who threatened a doctor with a nail clipper with a sharp blade in the emergency room at HCM City’s Gia Định People’s Hospital. Photo

HÀ NỘI — Leading doctors have said it is high time the Ministry of Health proposed the Government issues sanctions against acts of violence and assault of medical staff in hospitals.

They said that cooperation between the health sector and police must be tightened, and those who disrupt, insult or attack health workers must be punished.

Violence against health workers by patients or their families in hospitals has risen recently, especially in emergency rooms.

On August 6, a doctor was threatened by a patient’s son with a nail clipper with a sharp blade in the emergency room at HCM City’s Gia Định People’s Hospital.

The patient suffered severe respiratory failure. The patient said she needed to go to the toilet. The doctor explained that letting the patient go to the toilet on her own would be dangerous and asked a nurse to bring sanitary equipment to the patient’s bed.

The patient’s son refused and insisted on taking his mother to the restroom but was stopped by the doctor. The conversation escalated in a row. The patient’s son left and returned with a sharp tool in an attempt to stab the doctor but was stopped by people nearby.

A week ago, another doctor at the same hospital’s facility was attacked by the father of a 10-year-old girl. The girl was admitted with a fish bone stuck in her throat. The doctor examined her and told her to wait 10 minutes for an ear-nose-throat doctor to perform an endoscopy to remove the fish bone as he had to check on other patients.

After 10 minutes, the father demanded his daughter receive treatment immediately. He pushed the doctor against the wall and strangled him despite the doctor explaining the girl was not in a dangerous situation.

Figures from the Ministry of Health’s Department of Medical Examination and Treatment showed that of attacks on medical workers, up to 70 per cent were on doctors and 15 per cent against nurses.

Up to 90 per cent of cases occurred at hospitals, 60 per cent of cases happened when doctors were providing emergency treatment and 30 per cent when doctors were explaining a patient’s health condition.

Assaults on health workers mainly occurred at provincial hospitals, accounting for 60 per cent of total cases, followed by central hospitals with 20 per cent. Most of the assaulters were family members of patients.

Violence against health staff has caused insecurity and disorder at medical facilities and workers, angered the public, and ultimately reduced the quality of medical examination and treatment.

Nguyễn Công Lâm was sentenced to 10 months behind bars for disturbing public order. Lâm attacked a female doctor at Đồng Nai General Hospital in southern Đồng Nai Province. VNA/VNS Photo

Doctor Trần Văn Phúc from Hà Nội’s Saint Paul Hospital said that violence and assaults on doctors and nurses couldn’t be treated as specific crimes as they brought much more severe consequences.

“We are still shocked after receiving threats and have sleepless nights while we have to give treatment to patients the next morning. Do you think a doctor with a scared mind and a trembling hand can provide good medical service to patients?” he said.

Explaining the reasons for the assaults, Doctor Phan Quốc Hưng, director of Lâm Thảo District’s Health Centre in northern Phú Thọ Province, said moral degradation and low legal awareness made people show their disdain for hospitals regulations and were even ready to use their fists when they were not satisfied with health services.

He said the work of medical care and treatment was very risky. Unexpected medical incidents could occur at any time beyond the doctor’s ability. This could be a key source of conflict between the patient’s family and medical staff.

Overloading hospitals and substandard facilities also stressed patients and their families. Some medical workers’ attitudes could trigger the violence, he added.

Hưng said despite the rising assaults and violence, most hospitals’ infrastructure and equipment for security purposes remained inadequate. Security guards had not always undergone formal training in security operations and were not qualified to control troublemakers.

He said that the law did not have specific provisions the hospital’s security force could apply in cases of violence and assault.

Training to improve professional skills for health workers and security guards in conflict situations had not been conducted regularly or met requirements.

The management of authorities at all levels and hospital leaders had not been tight enough. Many hospitals had not actively coordinated with police to implement plans for crime prevention, he said.

Comprehensive solutions

According to the Ministry of Health, it is necessary to make comprehensive solutions to ensure hospital order and security.

The ministry has proposed measures to prevent assaults on medical staff, including improving the quality of medical examination and treatment, strengthening coordination between the health sector and police and strictly handling anyone who committed assault.

The ministry had proposed to amend the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment regarding the responsibilities of patients and people for medical examination and treatment services and ban acts of infringing on the work of or threatening doctors.

Education on medical violence fighting should also be enhanced, and training on skills to deal with hospital violence for health workers must be conducted regularly nationwide.

Doctor Hưng said Lâm Thảo District’s Health Centre had boosted investment in security infrastructures such as fence systems, security cameras, isolation gates of medical examination and treatment areas and working areas, and horn and loudspeaker systems.

The centre has also hired professional security units to ensure the safety of doctors and patients.

The centre has also invited experts to guide medical workers and hospital staff on effective communication skills, including detecting the risk of conflict and responding to and handling violent situations.

Doctor Nguyễn Lân Hiếu, director of Hanoi Medical University Hospital and a National Assembly deputy, said that the Ministry of Health needed to propose the Government issue sanctions for assaults or violence at hospitals.

He said the most important aspect was improving the quality of health staff and health services so problems would be solved. —VNS