Health scan: Patients accuse a tenth of doctors of sexual harassment

Complaints have increased either because it is occurring more frequently, or because there is more awareness of it and willingness to complain.

October 18, 2015 10:24
4 minute read.

A depressed woman (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

More complaints on alleged sexual harassment of female patients of all ages by male medical personnel have been filed in recent years, either because it is occurring more frequently, or because there is more awareness of it and willingness to complain.

No doctor is immune to such charges, according to researchers at Petah Tikva’s Rabin Medical Center, who wrote an article on the subject in a recent issue of Harefuah, the Hebrew-language journal of the Israel Medical Association.

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Obstetricians and gynecologists in the hospital said that physicians are at higher risk for complaints in specialties such as ob/gyn, psychiatry, family medicine and pediatrics.

According to the article, not only senior and lower-level physicians are at risk, but also interns, nurses, medical and nursing students and even auxiliary staffers. The rate of such complaints against male doctors is about one in 10. But surprisingly, in recent years, there have been plenty of sexual harassment complaints against women staffers as well.

Patients often come to hospitals and clinics fearful and anxious and have to expose themselves physically and emotionally. Organs are exposed and touched during examinations. The law on sexual harassment can have various interpretations depending on who looks into it or the judicial person who deals with it.

There is a standing recommendation that an accompanying nurse may be asked to be present when an intimate examination has to be performed on a patient, not only a woman but also a man. This is important not only to protect the patient but also the physician. The problem is that it is difficult to implement, as there is often no nurse who has time to do this.

The authors recommend that physicians who have to conduct intimate examinations of patients should take an “honorable and relaxed” approach, as this may reduce the pressure and anxiety of the patient and the risk that the physician becomes the subject of a complaint or a lawsuit.

The authors conclude that there is room for a strict institutionalization of how to perform intimate examinations on patients and for handling complaints of sexual harassment in medical institutions so that this problem can be significantly reduced.

TEENS LOSE SLEEP WITH DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME The change to daylight savings time in the spring causes high school pupils to lose sleep on school nights, resulting in a decline in vigilance and cognitive function, which raises safety concerns for teen drivers. A study showing this was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Ana Krieger, medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital says that the average objectively measured sleep duration on the weeknights after the spring clock change declined to seven hours, 19 minutes. This reflects a mean loss of 32 minutes per night compared with the school week prior to the implementation of daylight saving time. Average cumulative sleep loss on weeknights following the time change was two hours and 42 minutes.

During school days after the time change, pupils displayed increased sleepiness and a decline in psychomotor vigilance, including longer reaction times and increased lapses of attention. “For many years now, sleep researchers have been concerned about sleep deprivation in adolescents,” she says. “This study unveils a potential additional factor that may further restrict their sleep in the early spring.”

This is the apparently the first study to quantify the detrimental effects of daylight saving time implementation using objective measurements of sleep duration and vigilance in students attending high school.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adolescents get a little more than nine hours of nightly sleep for optimal health and daytime alertness during the critical transition from childhood to adulthood.

FOLLOW-UP NEEDED AFTER COPD The risk for hospital readmission after an attack of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – which is almost always caused by smoking – is nearly three times higher if a follow-up visit to a pulmonologist is skipped. The study led by Dr. Nimrod Maimon of the pulmonary institute at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba was published recently in the journal Chest.

COPD exacerbations account for 500,000 hospital admissions and $18 billion in direct health-care costs annually in the US alone. More than half of patients with COPD who are hospitalized due to exacerbations of their condition will be readmitted at least once during the first year after discharge; 14% will be readmitted during the first month after their discharge; and another 7% within three months.

Researchers found that place of residence is an important factor limiting attendance at follow-up appointments.

Patients who live farther away from the clinic are less likely to attend the follow up than those who live nearby.

Patients who were frequently hospitalized during the previous year are also less likely to attend follow-up visits.

Factors positively influencing attendance at follow-up visits include written recommendations accompanying discharge letters and pre-hospital admission visits by the patient to a pulmonologist.

“The potential impact of this study on reducing the admission rate of patients with common respiratory diseases is high,” wrote Maimon. “Advising a patient to visit a chest physician after discharge may save the next admission and reduce the morbidity burden of this serious disease.”

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