There is growing concern in the healthcare industry that female physicians in particular have become âphysical and emotional punch bagsâ for some patients and even their male colleagues in the workplace.
But little or nothing is done to stem these age-old attacks which usually take the form of emotional and physical abuse, including the rejection of romantic advances, is because medicine was still “in the hands of the old club. boys â.
In the past 10 days, the spotlight has been on three female doctors who had suffered violent attacks and emotional abuse while on duty.
Distressed doctor Mandisa Kubeka explained how she was assaulted with a file by a patient at Lillian Ngoyi Community Clinic in Soweto in a TV interview minutes after the attack.
The previous weekend, two female doctors were stabbed by a patient at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley, North Cape.
A known male patient, prone to drug addiction, had an epileptic seizure. While being treated in the hospital emergency department, he became aggressive and lashed out at doctors.
Doctors are reported to be recovering well and receiving psychosocial support, while the patient has been arrested and is due in court.
Steve Ledibane, provincial director of the Public Servants Association in that region, said the incident was “disturbing and of grave concern” and they condemned it.
He said they had previously raised safety concerns at public health facilities and also wondered what hospital management had done to keep employees safe.
“Such incidents should never happen and provincial health authorities must act decisively.”
Ledibane said the patient in question had been arrested.
In July, the Sunday Tribune reported on a finalized court case regarding an incident in 2020 where Dr Ayesha Tariq was punched in the face by the brother of his deceased patient.
Dr Tariq, who was incapacitated for nine months and had to undergo facial surgery to treat his injuries, magnanimously asked the court not to give his attacker, Zunaid Bux, a jail term during the sentencing.
Bux was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment – fully suspended for five years – on condition that he did not commit a similar offense during that period
She was also asked to complete an anger management and character building rehabilitation program.
Kubeka said she explained a clinic notice to a patient and stressed that it was not her instruction but that the patient had “the audacity to insult me” before hitting her with the file.
âI was scared. I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t want to work in these conditions anymore. When is someone going to hear us?â Kubeka asked.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Kajal Lutchminarian, former Miss India Worldwide and member of the KZN Specialist Network, representing around 400 specialist doctors in private practice, said similar calls for help were made but fell into the background. deaf ear.
Lutchminarian explained that historically medicine was a man’s world and women had to deal with the misogynistic behavior of patients often mistaken for nurses or treated without the title of Dr.
She demanded that a safe space be created to protect our women, so that patients or colleagues do not feel entitled to use them as a physical or emotional punching bag.
âMale colleagues who suffer from an inferiority complex, or are threatened by a woman who can do the same job, have sought to feel superior through punitive behavior towards junior or female colleagues.
âThere is an activist culture in medicine of ‘breaking and building you up’ and as someone who has been raised in a strict family we understand this concept of character building, hard work and ‘hard love.’ But pathological mistreatment and personal abuse should never be disguised in this way, for there is a clear difference. “
While Lutchminarain has accepted that there are strong and confident men and women in their fraternity and times are changing, she believes it was not going fast enough as old habits die hard.
She said women are harassed for things like their appearance, being married and having children. Patients and their families go through many stages of grieving during illness or unexpected events, including anger, and often see female physicians as an easy target to voice their frustrations.
Lutchminarain said abused women always happened and were worse before.
âIt has been well documented and archived throughout medicine, especially in women of color. We hear about it now because people stand up for others and listen. In addition, women are increasingly empowered to express themselves.
“Shocking as it may sound to a highly educated and skilled female physician of color, the majority of us have witnessed or experienced some form of physical or verbal abuse.”
She said those in charge should be held accountable for their actions, regardless of their position in the fellowship.
âAs a human rights activist, I encourage women to speak out and society to listen, because this is the only way to change the narrative of our future daughters and generations.
Joshila Ranchhod, Group Director and Corporate Secretary and Ethics Officer of Life Healthcare Group, said taking care of people is integral to their operations and goes beyond their patients.
âIt is very upsetting to hear of senseless and violent attacks against all women, including medical professionals, and we condemn these actions in the harshest terms.
Ranchhod said the care, safety and well-being of their employees, including doctors and independent practitioners, is of paramount importance and that they exercise zero tolerance for human rights violations, threats , harassment and abuse.
âAs a responsible corporate citizen and corporate citizen, we strongly oppose gender-based violence and promote an environment of respect within our hospitals. “