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Patient kicked me in the face

Friday, Feb 03, 2012
The New Paper
By Benson Ang

NUH's number of physical abuse cases has remained stable at about 35 cases a year.

Changi General Hospital (CGH) said it has seen a steady number of physical and verbal abuse cases - about 17 a year, in recent years.

A CGH spokesman said: "These incidents... while unpleasant are viewed by our staff as part and parcel of their work."

Meanwhile, Tan Tock Seng Hospital does not have a formal system in place to track such incidents.

Its spokesman said when they do surface, the hospital will deal with the matter accordingly and amicably.

Ms Penny Seet, president of the Singapore Nurses Association (SNA) and a nurse of 30 years, said staff in the accident and emergency departments face confrontations almost daily.

"Shouting, finger-pointing and shoving generally result from the intolerant or impatient patients and their significant others, but explanations generally calm them down.

"On weekend nights, we sometimes get the drunks and the disorderly, but a hot drink and a place to sleep usually does the trick."

But the recalcitrant ones may need police intervention, she said.

Nurses in community nursing homes have also reported that patients often pinch them or spit at them. But they dare not retaliate for fear of being accused of abuse instead.

Ms Isabel Yong, director of service quality at SGH, said the abuse cases are usually caused by patients who:

  • Insist on getting more benefits than they are entitled;
  • Suffer from some form of mental disorder (including anger management issues); or
  • Have a low threshold for pain.

Ms Yong added that SGH has been running a training programme since 2009 which uses role-playing to teach its frontline staff how to handle abusive situations.

SGH, KTPH and NUH said they understand that patients may sometimes feel helpless when unwell and family members may feel anxious for their loved ones.

But the three hospitals stressed that their health-care workers deserve a safe working environment and should be treated with respect and understanding.

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