Sunday, August 15, 2010

World-Wide Violence Against Doctors and Nurses

“Everyone participate in the sorting out of the law and order problem!” reads a sign in the lobby of Hospital No. 5 [catchy name, but I prefer it over the practice in the U.S. of glorifying a simple community hospital with a name like University Medical Center, usually with no affiliation to a university] in Shenyang, China. According to an August 11 article in the New York Times. the sign was erected in response to increasing numbers of attacks on doctors and nurses. The article recounts several disturbing incidents of disgruntled patients or families taking out their frustrations on medical workers throughout China, including the following: “…a doctor was stabbed to death in Shandong Province by the son of a patient who had died of liver cancer. Three doctors were severely burned in Shanxi Province when a patient set fire to a hospital office. A pediatrician in Fujian Province was also injured after leaping out a fifth-floor window to escape angry relatives of a newborn who had died under his care.”

Coincidentally on the same day, the Associated Press reported a story about assaults to emergency room personnel in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the two accounts, the root causes of the violence are different. If the reports are accurate, it seems that medical care in China is of very low quality with issues such as poorly educated doctors being paid by drug makers for writing prescriptions. In the U.S., the problem seems to be related to drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness [among the patients, not the medical people].

Who among us hasn’t occasionally thought of committing physical harm to the ED staff at 3 in the morning after being consulted to see a patient who has been there being “worked up” since 5 pm? I certainly have but so far, I’ve been able to suppress the urge.

Interestingly, the solution proposed by organized medicine in both China and the U.S. is the same—increase police and/or security guard visibility in hospitals. Police presence might help, but a determined psychopath could surprise even an alert cop. It’s analogous to terrorism. If someone is fanatical enough and undeterred by conscience or consequences, there is no foolproof way to stop that person.

2 comments:

Vickie said...

Try what they are doing in schools: just ban all forms of physical contact. Should do the trick!

Christopher Bayne said...

My medical school beefed up security presence around campus and the hospital, but none of the officers carry guns, batons, 'cuffs, or even pepper spray, from what I can tell. I would have no problem with officers carrying guns on my campus. Of course, understand I went to Virginia Tech. My sense of security is a little bit off. If bad things can happen in Blacksburg, Virginia, they can happen anywhere.

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