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Management Support for Frontline Healthcare Workers who are Verbally or Physically Harassed


Ms Ng Ling Ling

MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC


To ask the Minister for Health whether it is compulsory for all public healthcare institutions to have clear policies on (i) escalation processes for frontline healthcare workers who are verbally or physically harassed (ii) consistent management responses to support the workers tiered according to severity of the harassment and (iii) reporting of the number of such cases to the Ministry to monitor the overall situation.

Written Answer

MOH and our public healthcare institutions view all cases of abuse and harassment against our healthcare workers seriously. We adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse and harassment of our healthcare staff and will not hesitate to take appropriate actions against persons who do so. Our healthcare workers deserve to work in a safe environment while they care for patients.

Our institutions have established escalation processes for frontline healthcare workers who are verbally or physically harassed, including notifying their immediate superiors, referral to security officers on-site or reporting to the Police, if warranted by the situation. Our public healthcare institutions monitor and track all such incidents through their reporting information systems. While they are not required to report individual cases to MOH, the Ministry works with them to monitor the situation and review policies when needed.

The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) protects all individuals, including healthcare workers, from harassment. Public healthcare workers receive enhanced protection under Section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) while they are on duty. Based on data provided by our public healthcare institutions, the number of abuse/ harassment cases has been increasing over the past three years from about 1,080 in 2018 to about 1,300 in 2020.

Over the same period, the number of cases of harassment or abuse 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 58 in 2020. The Police do not specifically track reports made by healthcare workers for abuse or harassment while they are off-duty.

Our public healthcare institutions are committed to protecting and supporting healthcare workers to ensure a safe workplace environment. Members of the public are reminded through prominently displayed signages to treat our staff with respect and dignity, and that any form of verbal or physical abuse of our staff will not be tolerated. Besides the escalation procedures highlighted earlier, frontline healthcare staff are trained to assess and de-escalate potential conflicts in the first instance and manage abusive situations. In addition, our institutions have robust support systems in place to help healthcare staff cope with abuse and harassment cases. This includes helplines for affected staff, anonymised counselling support services on and off campus by institutions and community providers, and peer support programmes for staff.

During COVID-19, there have also been concerns about our healthcare workers’ well-being due to the increased workloads and higher levels of stress that they face, and whether there is an adequate and effective social support system in place to ensure their psychological well-being. To cope with mental health issues, healthcare workers can tap on the counselling services, staff helplines, and peer support programmes highlighted earlier. To enhance the preparedness and resilience of staff coping with stressful situations, some institutions have also rolled out bite-sized training modules on stress management and regularly shared mental health tips with their staff. The Ministry will continue to work closely with our public healthcare institutions to monitor and introduce timely measures to enhance staff well-being.

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