At risk while saving lives: Violence against doctors becoming a serious concern for Pakistan’s healthcare system
Health care workers in public sector hospitals in Pakistan are frequently exposed to aggression and violence.
Aggression and Violence against doctors and medical staff is common in Pakistan, yet this subject has hardly been given its due attention.
Speaking to a local news outlet regarding one such incident, the Chief Medical Officer at the Dr. Ruth PFAU Civil Hospital, Dr. Hussain, said, “It was a fiery, aggressive mob that broke into the ward, wheeling in a body with them. They surrounded me screaming ‘make him alive’ when I said that the patient had passed away.”
Problems faced by Medical Professionals
During his 11-year-long career, Dr. Hussain has witnessed and experienced many similar first-hand incidents. In fact, they have now become a norm for him.
According to the World Health Organization, 8% to 32% of healthcare workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers.
The Vice-President of the Young Nurses Association at the Dr. Ruth PFAU Civil Hospital, Naveed Ahmed Rind, believes that the incidents of violence against healthcare workers are much higher in Pakistan. The 31-year-old shares how he has been nominated in three FIRs “by influential people” for “preventing them from attacking the nursing staff.”
“They were influential people, but we are here to serve everyone. We cannot prioritize patients based on their strong political or financial backgrounds. People beat us just because we don’t attend to their patients without considering that we are busy treating another patient in a much more critical condition than theirs.”
A study published by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2015 revealed, “Almost two-thirds of the healthcare providers (65.6%) in hospitals across Karachi reported having experienced some form of violence. More than 50% of incidents took place in emergency wards because of reactions from patients’ attendees.
The head of the department at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center, Karachi, Dr. Seemin Jamali, has had similar experiences during her 30 years of career.
“I have encountered gun attacks and even a bomb blast inside the emergency ward,” she says, stressing adopting a no-tolerance policy towards violence.
However, Dr. Hussain has a different view and does not hold the public to be entirely responsible for violent behavior. He said, “It is also a result of poor management at the government hospitals. In many private hospitals, there are proper reception desks that direct patients and attendants to relevant wards. But in public hospitals, people have direct access to emergency wards where security is not sufficient.”
Following this, the Young Doctors Association organized a protest and was later guaranteed by the government that it would legislate on the issue and form policies in this regard.
When asked about the situation, The Sindh Health Secretary, Dr. Kazim Hussain Jatoi, said, “The safety of healthcare workers is of supreme importance to make the healthcare system well organized.”
He added that the Sindh Assembly had recently passed legislation to address the issue, “but it would take some time to implement these procedures.”
In 2014, the Sindh Assembly passed the Healthcare Commission Act to provide security for the healthcare staff on duty, but it has no effect on increasing violence incidents.
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