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Abuse of Public Healthcare Workers and Measures to Protect Them


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Tin Pei Ling
MP for MacPherson

Question No. 2167

To ask the Minister for Health (a) since January 2021, how many cases of abuse of public healthcare workers have been reported; (b) whether there is a rising trend and, if so, what could have contributed to this; and (c) what has been done to protect healthcare frontliners from unjustified behaviour against them.

Written Answer

The number of abuse and harassment cases reported within the Public Healthcare Institutions (PHIs) have increased over the last four years. The cases increased from about 1,080 in 2018, to 1,200 in 2019, and 1,300 in 2020. As of end November 2021, there have been about 1,400 abuse and harassment cases reported. Over the same period, the number of cases of abuse or harassment of public healthcare workers while on duty that were reported to the Police, under Section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), has also similarly risen from 40 in 2018 to 68 in 2021.

Possible reasons for the rising trend could be the increase in number of patients seen in the PHIs, coupled with rising expectations from patients and their family members for high quality care and service from healthcare staff. COVID-19 safety precautions such as hospital visitation limits, may also have resulted in heightened frustration for a handful of patients’ families.

Staff are equipped with preventive and mitigation strategies to manage abuse and harassment. This includes recognising high risk situations and exercising care to maintain good communication with patients and their family members to reduce the risk of interactions escalating to abuse and harassment. Prominent signages are displayed at various touchpoints to remind patients and their family members about the culture of mutual respect in the hospitals. PHIs have established escalation processes for frontline healthcare staff who face abuse and harassment. These include notifying their immediate superiors, referring these cases to security officers on-site or reporting the incident to the Police, if warranted. MOH and PHIs adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse and harassment of healthcare staff and will take action against persons who abuse and harass our staff. Public healthcare staff who are on duty will receive enhanced protection under Section 6 of the POHA.

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