Medical institution violence now more verbal, less physical

Incidents in hospital emergency rooms have declines, but verbal and physical violence has moved to other locations.

December 16, 2010 02:35
2 minute read.
Medical staff at a hospital

hospital doctors health 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The number of reported incidents of physical and verbal violence against medical staffers declined from 4,000 in 2008 to 2,400 in 2010.

But while the number of physical attacks has gone down, the share of verbal violence has risen, Health Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu said at a conference at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan dedicated to the subject on Wednesday.

While the number of incidents in tense hospital emergency rooms has declined, some of the violence has moved to other locations, such as inpatient departments, and against hospital security guards.

But medical personnel are no longer willing to remain silent, and the number of complaints filed with the police has risen. Eighty-four files were opened during the first six months of this year, compared to 155 during the whole of 2009. Two-thirds of the attacks were in hospitals, with the rest in community clinics.

Most (48 percent) of the incidents, according to Gamzu, occurred between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., with 37% from then until midnight and 15% between midnight and 8 a.m. In 51% of cases, it was the patient himself who was violent, with 49% a visitor or accompanying person. Physical violence occurred in 21% of cases; in the rest, the attacker was verbally abusive.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said that doctors, nurses and other personnel “stand daily on the front” and that much of the violence is due to crowding, long waits in queues and the shortage of doctors, nurses and medical equipment.

“People lose their patience, but zero tolerance should be shown to violence,” said Eidelman.

The IMA has lobbied for a law that would set more severe punishments for those who attack medical personnel.

“We demand that the Health Ministry act in the government to define treatment of violence in medical facilities as a national target so that the problem is treated nationally and not locally,” he said.

But Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman released some steam himself when he protested, in a special ministry press release, that many hospital and health fund administrators failed to show up at the conference.

“The complicated task of fighting violence must be led by heads of medical institutions with stress put on improving training for service, continuously better conditions for the medical service and better security,” said Litzman. “If senior administrators in hospitals and some of the health funds don’t attend a national conference on violence, they should not complain to the ministry.”

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