COMMENT | I refer to the recent incident of a man believed to be mentally unstable who hurled a Molotov cocktail at a doctor and staff at a urology clinic of a private hospital in Penang.
I would like to wish the doctor and his staff a speedy recovery.
It is truly deplorable that such an incident could have occurred to those who were in the midst of carrying out their duties in the clinic. This unfortunate incident serves to remind us of a few issues.
Healthcare professionals are increasingly subject to many forms of abuse, be it verbal or physical abuse.
The ease of recording certain incidences in the hospital and it going viral on social media further agitates the general public to form negative opinions on healthcare staff, who are more often than not there to care for the patients and their family under difficult circumstances.
Despite adequate notices and reminders to the public that abuses against healthcare workers will not be tolerated, incidents like this keep recurring.
The general practice clinics outside of hospitals are particularly vulnerable, as the security in such facilities are lax. Several doctors have been fatally wounded during robbery attempts.
I would urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate such incidents and to punish the perpetrators of the crime appropriately.
This is in order to send a strong message to the public that abuse against healthcare professionals will not be tolerated and will be dealt with the severest form of punishment possible.
Threat of abuse is very real
Secondly, despite the availability of security measures such as guards and CCTV monitoring, the possibility of abuse against healthcare professionals is very real indeed.
It is not completely unexpected, as a hospital is indeed a stressful place for not only the healthcare professionals but other caregivers as well, and it is only via effective communication between all parties involved that misunderstandings can be minimised.
However, there are certain patients who are abusive possibly because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they are admitted to the emergency department.
Along with the presence of unruly friends or family members, it is easy to see such a situation escalate out of control with potential harm to the healthcare professionals – who are there to address the specific medical issues that are the reasons the patient had come to the hospital in the first place.
I hope that security services and protocols in hospitals are well-planned so that robust systems are in place to avert untoward incidences.
Thirdly, the issue of mental health. We have to acknowledge that this is becoming a serious problem and needs to be tackled accordingly.
The victims of such aggression are usually innocent bystanders, in this case, staff and other patients who were in the vicinity of the incident.
Although it is difficult to predict when someone who has a mental health issue will turn aggressive, it is important that those who are able to identify such issues with an individual are able to send them to the professionals for appropriate treatment.
This is one area where the family physicians or general practitioners who are part of the community will be able to help to identify and manage certain individuals who are prone to mental health issues.
DR MOHAMED NAMAZIE IBRAHIM is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.