Violence in Israeli hospitals endangers country’s medical care

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“It is unacceptable that Israeli citizens do not feel safe in the place that should be the safest for them,” President Isaac Herzog said on Wednesday during a visit to Galilee Medical Center. “How can the place where we go to receive life-saving care become such a dangerous place? “

His words were particularly poignant after a series of violent incidents that rocked hospitals across the country this week, including an incident in which bullets were fired at a hospital parking lot.

“This crosses a red line and we demand vigorous action to be taken to keep the peace in the hospital,” said Dr Shlomi Kodesh, director general of Soroka-University Medical Center in Beer Sheva, where one of the incidents has occurred.

“It is not possible for staff members to come to work and provide care if they have to fear violent behavior from patients or those accompanying them,” said Nadav Chen, CEO of Laniado Medical. Center, whose hospital was the victim of an assault the previous week.

A massive brawl broke out on Sunday evening between two clans in the Soroka parking lot, during which shots were fired. Four people were injured and 10 people were arrested, the hospital and Israeli police said. It took about an hour from the start of the incident until the police succeeded in restoring calm to the area.

Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva (credit: DR. AVISHAI TEICHER / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Then, on Monday, security at the Rambam healthcare campus were forced to call the police after nearly 100 clan and family members tried to force their way into the emergency room of the hospital where a victim of criminal violence was taken for treatment.

“Two or three times a week, the hospital turns into a battlefield between warring clans,” said Benny Keller, head of Rambam’s security department. “Shooting near a hospital is incredibly scary.”

The next day, an angry crowd gathered outside the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where two gunshot victims, including one who later died of her injuries, were being treated. Crowds rushed to hospital from a nearby funeral at a cemetery in Jaljulya, where a fire had broken out between the parties. The families managed to pass the security guards and enter the facility, until the police arrived and restored order.

Just a week earlier, a violent incident had taken place in Laniado in Netanya which the hospital said could have been worse had the attacker not been arrested by security personnel.

Early in the morning, a patient visitor verbally assaulted staff and smashed a computer screen in the hospital emergency department, then rushed forward to physically assault a nurse, only to be arrested on time by hospital security personnel.

Two videos were released by the hospital, one showing a bearded man in a black shirt standing at one of the department’s reception desks yelling at staff. He then rips an entire computer screen off the desk and crashes it to the ground. The second video shows him running through the department with his arms flapping until he is grabbed by a security guard.

While, according to Dr Zeev Feldman, president of the Association of State Physicians and acting president of the Israeli Medical Association, incidents like the one that occurred in Laniado are more common than recent clan violence and family observed near hospitals, all these events have “underlined the fact that medical teams in hospitals are without any protection. ”

THE HPITALS ARE a microcosm of society. Every day, thousands of diverse citizens arrive in emergency rooms across the country for treatment, and they bring the pulse with them from outside the walls of the hospital. When there’s stress and violence on the streets, Feldman explained, that’s what goes into the hospital.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse.

According to Tavor Enoshi, human resources manager at Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital, the coronavirus has caused increased violence in hospitals due to the stress it has placed on society.

“When there is more violence in the community, the violence also manifests in hospitals,” he said. “People who come to the hospital are inherently stressed and people act in extreme ways when they are stressed. At present, hospitals are also very overcrowded and staff are overcrowded, and this combination leads to a situation where violence can more easily erupt.

“The more crowded the hospital, the more likely it is that the violence will increase,” he said.

Keller said this type of stress is difficult for doctors, nurses and other health care workers. He said it puts them off balance and makes it difficult for them to do their jobs.

He cited a recent example from Rambam where a man who was suffering from COVID-19 deteriorated and the doctor felt he needed to be intubated. The doctor approached the old man’s sons for consultation and “they went mad and tried to beat the doctor.”

The next day the man died and the doctor was afraid to break the news to his family. Keller said the hospital called on its security staff and the police to accompany the doctor to break the news to make sure he was not injured.

The overcrowding of hospitals and the shortage of doctors and nurses are the result of decades of government neglect of the health care system, Feldman pointed out. Still, he said visitors often blame the medical staff, who are on the front lines, for the “government’s neglect of the health care system,” by lashing out when things aren’t going well.

“We need to be protected (…) so that we can focus on imparting our knowledge and skills to treat patients, and not on dealing with public discontent or being the target of physical or verbal attacks, “he said.

Feldman said the Israel Medical Association requested information from the police about the number of attacks that have taken place against medical teams in hospitals, and was told that it was not following this specific information. However, the health ministry was able to provide a snapshot of the violent incidents against the workers, which it shared with the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening.

According to data, in 2018 there were 272 acts of physical violence against medical personnel, up from 333 in 2019, 306 in 2020 and so far, 252 between January and October 2021. The decrease in 2020, according to the ministry , is probable. due to lockdowns, during which fewer people sought medical assistance.

Threats were also relatively stable at 169 in 2018, 216 in 2019, 128 in 2020 and, to date, 115 threats recorded in 2021.

Finally, verbal abuse and property damage are also similar. There have been 270 incidents in 2018, 312 in 2019, 225 in 2020 and, to date, 121 in 2021.

In addition, there were around 5,300 incidents of disruption in hospitals in 2020, up from 4,631 so far this year.

But Keller said in his hospital that they are definitely feeling an increase.

“If you compare January to October 2020 to the same time this year, there were 1,000 hospital disturbance incidents in 2020 compared to more than 1,500 already in 2021,” Keller said.

He noted that hiring security guards has become more difficult than ever in his 30 years in the hospital. He said hospital guards only get NIS 36 an hour and they are required to work 12-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“We put them at the bottom of the totem pole, and they work very hard and do a very dangerous job,” Keller said. “There are many other places that hire security guards to work less hard and for higher wages. “

He said he is calling on the government to increase the salaries of guards, which are set by the state, and start prioritizing them.

Feldman said the government should provide hospitals with a greater police presence because “once a person sees a police officer, they will think twice about whether they want to be verbally or physically abusive.”

“The violent incident that took place (…) on the grounds of Soroka hospital in the capital of the Negev is a crossing of red lines and a resounding warning signal for the ministries of health and Public Security “, underlined Prof. Zion Hagay, president. from the Israeli Medical Association. “It is not possible for patients and medical staff to be abandoned.

“We must not wait for miracles,” he said.

PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett said the country was starting to crack down on crime and violence and was working to seize illegal weapons, something he said had been overlooked over the past decade.

Speaking at a meeting of the Ministerial Committee to Combat Violence in Arab Society on Monday, he said the reservoir of illegal weapons “has grown and swelled for many years” and that it ” must be emptied “.

“Friends, we are working,” he said. “Our task is not to ease off the gas, but to continue with all our might. Another operation and another operation, keep pressing until the task is completed.

Coalition Chairperson and Health Committee Chairperson MP Idit Silman visited Laniado this week, where she said “we will look into the possibility of pushing forward legislation to increase sanctions against those who attack medical staff “.

“Our staff are in the foreground every day, 24 hours a day. It is time that an attack on medical personnel was tantamount to an assault on a police officer in the performance of their duties, including a minimum sentence,” Chen told Silman during the visit.

But something must be done to stop the violence immediately, Feldman pointed out, otherwise healthcare could suffer.

“We want to be able to treat the public without any fear or restriction,” he said.


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