The government must crack down on perpetrators of violence in hospitals, healthcare worker groups, lawmakers and government officials said yesterday in response to a continuing spate of assaults in healthcare facilities.
A nurse at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital was on Tuesday allegedly slapped in the face by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Lujhu Township (蘆竹) Representative Wang Kui-fen (王貴芬), after the nurse refused to inform Wang about her father’s condition over the telephone, in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).
Legislators and healthcare worker groups are now proposing to step up prosecution of offenses against healthcare providers at medical facilities, with the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s full support.
The Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety (TMAL) chairman Chong Chee-fah (張志華) said that this year alone, at least three serious assaults have been carried out against healthcare workers.
“In May, we had an actor punching an ER physician, and in August another patient’s relative hurt a doctor with a fruit knife, which was obviously premeditated,” Chong said. “A good doctor-patient relationship should be one involving mutual respect.”
Responding to a question about the nurse’s attitude, which Wang blamed for her action, Chong likened the excuse to the offensive accusation made by rapists who blame their victims for wearing too little.
“We are asking for zero tolerance for violence,” Chong said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said at the press conference that the lawmakers’ earlier proposal to have police officers at hospitals was dismissed by the National Police Agency director-general with remarks about “police deficiency,” and the suggestion to have offenses against healthcare providers considered “Offenses Against Public Safety” under the Criminal Code was likewise spurned by the Ministry of Justice for fear of “increasing doctors’ prerogatives.”
“We don’t want to wait anymore. We’ll amend the Medical Care Act (醫療法) to make the offenses state-prosecutable,” said Tien, with DDP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) adding that the proposal will be discussed on Monday at the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.
Lee Wei-chiang (李偉強), head of the ministry’s Department of Medical Affairs, said Article 24 of the Act, which states that “law enforcement authorities shall assist in eliminating or restraining persons” who use violence to disrupt the order of a medical institution, can also be changed to prosecute such people.
The nurse has taken the matter to court.
Wang first denied that she had attacked the nurse, but on Thursday, fell on her knees to apologize after she was summoned to the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office.
Wang reportedly said she would not resign from the township office, but she has been suspended for one year by the KMT to enforce party discipline.