‘Healthcare violence is global, but doctors need to cultivate empathy’

Dr. Otmar Kloiber, secretary general of WMA, at a conference on Friday.  

Healthcare violence is a globally growing phenomenon, although the situation varies from country to country, say doctors. The Indian Medical Association and the World Medical Association came together in the city on Friday to discuss the issue of increasing violence against doctors.

“Healthcare violence is occurring everywhere. The medical fraternity has been focussed on what they are doing to others and has not reflected much on what is happening to them,” said Dr. Otmar Kloiber, secretary general of WMA, speaking at the international conclave on zero tolerance on violence against doctors.

Dr. Kloiber said the occurrence of violence is mainly related to armed conflicts like in Yemen, Syria, Gaza etc, paramilitary conflict, civil unrest and hybrid war like in Mexico, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Philippines, and civil situations like in India, Turkey, Slovenia, China and USA. “There is no country in the world that is left untouched by civil situations,” he said.

He described the classes of violence as physical, verbal, psychological as well as in the form of bullying. “The attacks are happening on clinics, inside clinics, medical transports and on health personnel on their way home,” he said, quoting 2017 data from Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition that pegged at least 701 attacks on hospitals, health workers, patients and ambulances in 23 countries in conflict around the world. More than 101 health workers and 293 patients and others are reported to have died as a result of these attacks.

According to the IMA, nearly 72% of Indian doctors have suffered physical or verbal abuse in their career. “The situation has remained the same over several years as the implementation of the law has been an issue,” Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar, IMA past president, said. “The attacks are mostly a result of frustration of people against the system. If a CT scan machine is not functional in a public-run hospital, the doctors get abused. But what is the doctor’s role in this? It is the issue of the system,” Dr. Wankhedkar said.

The healthcare industry has been witnessing increasing attacks on women staff, including doctors, he said. “The abuse is coming from within the system as well as from outside.” Reporting of incidents, in this context, becomes crucial, he said.

IMA’s current president Dr. Santanu Sen said they have been urging all their members to notify the attacks. “However small or big the attack be, it has to be recorded. Cases of violence are often not taken seriously by the police, which needs to change,” he said. Doctors too have to change a lot in them, like make better eye contact, and use the right tone while talking. “Empathy is missing from our practice and we are trying to take some corrective steps,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 1:32:41 AM |

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