Cases of physical violence against doctors and nurses in hospital emergency rooms are on the up, it emerged this week. The trend is worrying trade unions who attribute the phenomenon to a drop in people’s quality of life due to the current financial crisis.
Luís Martins, the head of the PSP unit at the Amadora-Sintra hospital told Lusa News Agency that violence towards health professionals is becoming a more frequent occurrence, especially towards nurses and doctors.
Until recently, doctors were targeted less by patients, who respected them, but that has changed dramatically, according to Mr. Martins.
National Doctor’s Union leader Pilar Vicente, who is also a doctor at the São José hospital in Lisbon, where there is a PSP unit, told Lusa that the attitude of patients towards health professionals reflects the cases that are attended to, which are becoming more violent.
“We see this from the cases that are coming into the emergency ward, we have more victims of violence, domestic violence, knifings, gun shots wound, etc” she said.
Dr. Vicente says that “as social problems become worse, people become more aggressive, they drink more, have greater economic problems, more stress and quickly turn to violence.”
“It is a civil problem, of society itself, to which we as professionals can only try to ask people to adopt a different attitude,” she added.
For Guadalupe Simões, from the Portuguese Nurses Union (SEP), violence against nurses is nothing new, although it has worsened, which she believes is due to “poorer economic conditions.”
“We have been warning for a long time of the consequences that the worsening social situation would have on the way patients and their visitors treat nurses, and now we can confirm that violence is on the rise,” she said.
Guadalupe Simões also highlighted that, because nurses “are at the frontline of the health service” they are more often the victims of patients’ intolerance.
“We feel this increase in violence at health centres, hospitals and in home care,” she said.
SEP recognises the important role of policing in hospitals, with Mrs. Simões defending there should be police stationed in more health centres because of the dissuasive effect they have in potentially violent situations.