8% to 38% of health workers are experiencing physical violence during stressful pandemic conditions, points a survey.
In the COVID19 crisis apart from the patient’s death, there are many reasons that have resulted in the psychological and physical violence on healthcare workers who are toiling day in and out to help people survive and fight the coronavirus while risking their own lives.
There are doctors, nurses, security personnel and those who were assisting in testing, contact tracing and enforcing physical distancing measures to stop COVID-19 who have reported their experiences of being threatened and attacked. In Indore, a couple of doctors were attacked by a mob who were being screened by these doctors. In Delhi, a few patients scared the lady doctors for their assumed access to medicine and food - they had to hide in their hospital office rooms to save themselves. Ahmedabad reported a case where the neighbours and the doctor’s own uncle spat on her accusing her of spreading the virus in their locality due to her association with the COVID-19 response teams.
Sometimes the authorities do not want doctors and nurses to disclose the truths about the worsening situation. Be it for keeping the public calm or any personal responses or reasons - doctors are warned not to tell the truth. If they deny following the authority’s orders, they are threatened not just with physical assault but death threats too. Many more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression and social stigma because of their work and ethics in case of any political association.
We need to understand that any kind of violence against health workers is unacceptable. It does not only pose a negative impact on their psychological and physical well-being but also affects their job motivation. Healthcare professionals and workers are already being exposed to COVID posing a physical danger which also increases their psychological pressure. These are the times of crisis and our frontline warriors need all their energy to fight the invisible virus and not the external pressures and abuses.
What needs to be done?
Focus on the right news going out: Avoiding any kind of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 needs to be countered as this increases the restlessness and tension in the public. Widespread misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, including conspiracy theories, contribute to the violence against certain groups such as healthcare workers in this case.
Getting help from the authorities: The local and state governments need to interfere with the civil society, community-based groups, and media organisations to highlight the problem of attacks on healthcare workers. Once the news about healthcare worker’s safety gets out people will try and retrospect on the seriousness of the situation and try to help in spreading the word and engaging with the community on prevention, intervention, and reporting.
Strict actions need to be taken: For people to understand the difference between wrong and right, strong yet responsible enforcement actions against culprits of attacks, by the authorities responsible for law enforcement, need to be carried out. Violence against health-care personnel need to have quick actions from the legal systems to avoid any kind of repetitive incorrect behaviour.