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Biggest hospital health threat: patient families

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Medicine is a dangerous profession in Turkey, where half of all doctors and more than a third of nurses working at polyclinics and emergency services say they have been exposed to physical and verbal abuse on the job. Patients’ families are often the perpetrators of violence, hospital personnel report in a survey, saying such incidents are on the rise, statements seemingly corroborated by a recent beating assault in Mardin and a stabbing case in Kars

When Erdal Aydoğan’s wife fell ill Sunday night, he took her to Kızıltepe State Hospital in Southeast Turkey’s Mardin province for treatment. But when he found out that treatment included a male nurse giving his wife an injection, Aydoğan reportedly exploded.

“How could a man give an injection to my wife,” Aydoğan yelled before allegedly beating and punching male nurse Cafer Cengiz, 25, in the hospital’s emergency services area. Other employees attempted to restrain the enraged husband and remove him from the premises.

Cengiz’s experience is not unusual in Turkey, where a recent poll by the Istanbul Medical Chamber showed that nearly half of all doctors working at polyclinics and emergency services in hospitals, and more than a third of nurses, are exposed to physical and verbal violence – often by family members of the patients.

Seventy-two percent of participants in the survey agreed with the statement, “Violent incidents have increased within the last year,” while 51 percent agreed that, “Violent incidents have gone up at the institution where I work.”

Another such incident occurred Saturday, when Bülent Öcal, a doctor at Kars State Hospital in Eastern Turkey, was stabbed in the hospital’s polyclinic by a patient and his two relatives for not taking good enough care of the patient, whose nose was bleeding.

The attackers were caught by the hospital’s security forces and taken to the police. The doctor was wounded near his right back rib and he had bruising around his eyes. Provincial Health Manager Fahri Sevinç condemned attacks on doctors, saying they are performing their duties under hard conditions.

Medical staff working in emergency services reported the most mistreatment, the Istanbul Medical Chamber poll said. Overall, 45 percent of doctors, 35 percent of nurses, 11 percent of administrative clerks and 7 percent of security guards said they had been exposed to violence at work. Twenty-nine percent of all health employees said they encounter physical and verbal abuse almost every day.

Following such incidents, 40 percent inform the police and 33 percent file a case.

A separate poll conducted by the Isparta and Burdur Medical Chambers showed that 45 percent of health employees have been exposed to physical violence in the last year.

The male nurse in the Mardin case said he was grieving because of being exposed to such an attack. “I sent the woman’s husband away so he could deal with entering her record into the system. Afterward, I gave her an injection,” Cengiz said. “When he learned the situation, he punched me. Nearly 70 percent of the patients arriving at the hospital are women. Our job is [dealing with] emergencies; whether we like it or not, we have to interfere.”

The hospital’s medical staff does not get to choose their patients, Cengiz said, adding that the family did not demand the patient receive the injection from a female nurse. “If they had told us about their sensitivity, we would have given her to our female health employees,” he said.

Medical staff protested the attack by gathering in front of the hospital Monday. The chief physician of the hospital, Sefer Varol, said he would have preferred to say better things that day, marked as Medical Day in Turkey, but that the attack had ruined it.

“Our health employee on duty at the emergency service was attacked. He was beaten by a patient’s husband after a standard injection. Health employees do not feel their lives are safe under these conditions,” Varol said. “We complain about this issue very much and we want law enforcement officers and the courts of justice to show sensibility on this issue. We also want our citizens to help us.”

A female nurse working at the state hospital condemned the attack against her male colleague. “A woman giving an injection to a man is not wrong, but a man giving one to a woman is perceived as wrong. What’s the difference?” said Filiz Aydın. “We have a medical oath; we want to give equal service to everybody. We are fed up with insults and battering.”

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