Medical associations, civic groups and lawmakers yesterday voiced support for a “zero tolerance stance” against violence in medical facilities, after an emergency room (ER) doctor was assaulted by a patient’s son.
On May 6, actor Chen Ching-ta (陳清達) accompanied his mother to the emergency room of Changhua Christian Hospital.
Surveillance footage showed that a few minutes after arriving at the hospital, Chen punched the emergency room physician, resulting in a hematoma in the back of the the doctor’s head.
Jan Chun-chi (詹淳淇), a member of the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety’s (TMAL) Committee of Legal Study and Global Think Tank, said that Chen repeatedly shouted that his mother needed a ventilator, although the physician said she needed intubation — a procedure that requires a family member’s consent.
“While Chen Ching-ta accused the doctor of delaying treatment, his action alone interrupted the process by more than a minute,” Jan said.
“Chen’s assault against healthcare providers was not the first and might not be the last as violence in the ER is on the rise and the doctor-patient relationship deteriorating,” Jan said.
“Eighty percent of ER staff have encountered verbal and physical abuse and more than 30 percent have been physically attacked,” said Yen Zui-shen (顏瑞昇), a member of the Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine.
TMAL chairman Chong Chee-fah (張志華) said that doctors nowadays carry audio recording devices or event data recorders to protect themselves.
Chang, Yen, Democratic Progressive Party legislators Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) called for stationing police at hospitals and legal revisions, making infringements on medical safety an offense against public safety and therefore an indictable offense.
However, Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation chief executive officer Joanne Liu (劉淑瓊) expressed her concern over making violence at medical facilities a criminal offense without providing appropriate supporting measures.
“We are not pitting the ER against patients. We must keep in mind that hospital administrators and the government — the Department of Health and the Council of Labor Affairs — play a big role here,” Liu said.
“It is more crucial for hospitals to work on violence prevention measures such as personnel training and crisis management before any possible violent assault and a debriefing mechanism thereafter,” said Liu, adding that hospitals should also improve manpower allocation and strengthen physician-patient communication.
“More needs to be done on the government’s part as well. The Council of Labor Affairs in 2007 drafted regulations ordering hospitals to ensure workplace safety, but this draft was aborted in the end,” Liu said.
“It’s a shame that the policy on the issues of occupational safety has long been exceedingly influenced by the hospital administrators,” Liu added.