Physician Leaders Demand Action to Prevent Workplace Violence

Physician leaders across the world have strongly condemned a significant increase in violence against healthcare personnel and facilities, particularly during the Covid pandemic.

A statement adopted at the World Medical Association’s annual General Assembly in Berlin, says this violence in the health sector includes co-worker violence, aggressive behavior by patients or family members, and involves acts of malicious intent, both physical and psychological violence, as well as intimidation and cyber harassment.

Delegates from almost 60 national medical associations urged healthcare facilities to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence. And they called on governments to act to prevent and eliminate such violence, including, if necessary, systems to screen patients and visitors for weapons when entering certain areas.

The statement calls on social media companies to take steps to create a cyber-violence-free environment for its users. It says that cyber and social media harassment particularly includes online threats and intimidation towards physicians who take part in public debates in order to give adequate information and fight disinformation. These physicians are increasingly confronted with malicious messages on social media, death threats and intimidating home visits.

WMA President Dr Osahon Enabulele said: ‘Violence against health personnel is a growing worldwide problem. And it has potentially destructive social effects. It affects the entire healthcare system, it undermines the quality of the working environment, and it impacts the quality of patient care.

‘Governments have a duty to ensure the safety and security of patients, physicians, and other health personnel. And this includes providing an appropriate physical environment.’