According to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Tlaleng Mofokeng, Covid-related attacks on healthcare workers are expected to increase as new mutations of the corona virus wreak havoc in countries such as India, and vaccine programs are delayed in some countries.
“WE CREATED AN ARTIFICIAL SITUATION LEADING TO MORE Famine”
Mofokeng said: “With the added stress of Covid, these attacks will increase. That’s the sad part. There is already a shortage of healthcare workers and many have died. On top of that, we know that the developed world is hoarding vaccines and pharmaceutical companies don’t want to share their intellectual property. “We’ve created an artificial situation where there’s more pressure. This will put more pressure on hospitals,” he said.
“DISCOVERING AND DISAPPOINTING”
Mofokeng, who is a doctor himself, said that the attacks on doctors and nurses around the world are discouraging and disappointing, adding that violence against healthcare professionals is not new, but that Covid has complex conditions arising from a lack of government leadership and investment in public health systems.
“When governments fail, it is healthcare professionals who fill the gap and ensure that healthcare systems do not collapse. But how much longer can they do that under these conditions?” used the phrases.
However, according to the latest figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 848 incidents of violence linked to Covid-19 were recorded between February and December last year. Maciej Polkowski, head of the ICRC’s Healthcare in Danger initiative, said the number is likely “the tip of the iceberg” and part of a “far more common situation”.
MANY EVENTS ARE NOT REPORTED
On the other hand, the ICRC’s analysis showed that the vast majority of incidents were interpersonal violence, with sometimes serious consequences, in which community groups, patients or their relatives attacked healthcare workers. Polkowski cited a patient with Covid symptoms in Naples, Italy, who became angry after a doctor and nurse were told to wait and spit. As a result, the entire ward had to be closed and staff quarantined.
However, some countries have also turned to physical violence. Covid wards were searched and staff attacked in India and Pakistan. Bleach was thrown at healthcare workers on the street in Mexico. Polkowski said the words “infectious mouse” were scraped on a healthcare worker’s car in Spain, forcing doctors working at covid treatment centers in communities on the US west coast to leave the area.
UK DOCTORS REPORT AN UNMATCHED HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE
In England, attackers spat on medical staff in public hospitals, patients verbally abused staff who asked them to wear masks in hospital settings, and GPs reported unprecedented harassment and aggression.
Polkowski accused governments of allowing misinformation to spread, adding, “The fact that governments are not communicating clearly on this issue raises many concerns. They downplayed the severity of the disease, prioritizing the economy over the health of the population. Violence against medical personnel is a result of this attitude.”
THE GOVERNMENT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR 20 PERCENT OF EVENTS
On the other hand, Polkowski explained that when patients or their relatives are responsible for violence, it is often linked to the death of a relative or fear that they might die. The inability to perform burial rituals, especially in countries such as India and Nepal, due to Corona virus restrictions also caused some relatives to attack medical personnel or facilities.
According to Polkowski, state forces are also responsible for about 20 percent of Covid-related attacks. A doctor in Myanmar, whose name has not been released for security reasons, said that medical teams who set out to treat Covid patients suffering from respiratory distress were detained, resulting in unnecessary deaths of patients.
In Nicaragua, the government has repeatedly underestimated the scale of the country’s pandemic, according to Amnesty International. Healthcare workers were fired for using personal protective equipment at work.
SOME COUNTRIES MADE NEW DECISIONS TO PROTECT HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
On the other hand, some countries have taken action in response to increases in Covid-19-related attacks. India has amended its emergency epidemic law so that attacks on healthcare workers are punishable by up to seven years in prison. Authorities in Sudan announced the creation of a special police force to protect healthcare workers during the pandemic. In Algeria, too, the penal code was amended to increase the protection of healthcare workers from attacks and to punish those who damage healthcare facilities.
In the UK, the police, crime, criminal and court bill proposes increasing the maximum sentence from 12 months to two years for anyone attacking an emergency worker. Also, UK medics will be given body cameras after a sharp increase in attacks. Data show that 3,569 ambulance personnel were physically attacked by the public in the country last year. This figure is 30 percent higher than the 2016-17 period.
CALL TO FOLLOW GOVERNMENTS
That said, for healthcare workers, the impact of violence can lead to mental health problems, burnout and, in some cases, suicide. He called for more monitoring and data collection of violent attacks.
SEA SLIP COVERED THE PORT IN ONE HOUR