Sunday 16 November 2014

Treat health-care workers with respect

HOSPITALS and outpatient clinics have been traditionally thought of as safe havens, where the sick are protected and cared for.

Yet, after working for more than 20 years in health care, I have witnessed medical and social service workers being increasingly targeted in work-related abuse.

Fortunately, most unpleasant incidents involve verbal abuse rather than physical assault.

Contrary to popular belief, violence is not confined to psychiatric facilities or hospital accident and emergency departments, but can occur in inpatient wards and even primary care settings.

What is behind the rising incidence of agitated patients and threatening situations?

Patients increasingly view themselves as customers who have the right to expect more than they are paying for, and medical staff are seen as service providers who have to bend over backwards to meet even unrealistic demands.

Even beneficiaries of free services from community health-care providers have higher expectations these days, and think nothing of creating a commotion when they do not get their way.

Recently, I was at a voluntary welfare organisation's Community Health Day and witnessed people, who were receiving free health screenings, verbally abusing the helpers, many of whom were volunteers, because of the long waiting time.

Even if patients feel entitled to something, it does not give them the right to abuse staff who are trying their best. Rude remarks, vulgarities, threatening gestures and threats usually come from intolerant and unreasonable patients and those with them.

Notwithstanding the reasons behind their frustration, health-care workers deserve a safe environment to carry out their duties, and to be treated with respect and dignity.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock
ST Forum, 13 Nov 2014

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