Tougher security measures like those used at banks and gold shops are among ideas that have been proposed to prevent violent incidents in hospital emergency rooms after a recent survey revealed that quarrels at health facilities were a frequent occurrence.
The survey, organised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Thailand, was conducted among emergency rooms nationwide from 2012-2020 and revealed 66 violent incidents, including fights and alcohol-related incidents.
The survey also cited a recent violent act committed by gang members at two hospitals in Samut Prakan.
In response, the Medical Council of Thailand held a seminar on Thursday on how to tackle the problem. People from agencies such as the Ministry of Public Health, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Thailand, the Office of the Attorney general, and the Royal Thai Police, were invited to exchange information.
Sukhum Karnchanapimai, permanent secretary of the Public health ministry, said the ministry placed a high priority on curbing violence to ensure the safety of medical staff, allow lifesaving procedures to be pursued effectively and protect medical equipment.
“Current security measures on emergency wards include having guards on duty, alarms for personnel to call for help, safety drills and some self-defence training but more measures will be added,” Dr Sukhum added.
Among the solutions is a review of emergency department layouts, double doors with controlled access, more CCTV cameras and a new law which will attempt to reduce violence against medical staff.
Dr Narong Thadadet, director of Udon Thani Hospital, said there had been several cases of violence and fighting at his hospital’s emergency room over the past few years.
“Incidents are reported more frequently during the holidays, when the number of road accidents and public brawling spikes,” he said. “Most of the time, patients’ relatives clash with the other party seeking revenge for the dead or injured, leading to violence.”
Dr Narong said his hospital had contacted Udon Thani police for solutions.
“In the past, when hospital staff called police after violence broke out, it took the police some time to arrive at the scene of the fight, by which time it had already escalated,” Dr Narong said.
“To eliminate the response time, we decided to set up a community police station in front of the emergency room complete with a computer, desk and chair, as well as a coffee-maker for police stationed there.”
Pol Maj Gen Thanayut Wutthicharatthamrong, deputy commander of Provincial Police Region 1, has suggested all hospitals install a system similar to the one used by banks and gold shops to alert police when an emergency occurs.
Deputy spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General, Kosolwat Inthuchanyong, said unauthorised intrusions into a hospital’s emergency department are punishable by a prison sentence of 3-15 years, especially if it involves an attempt to assault a patient receiving treatment, which could also lead to a charge of attempted murder. Trespassing on a hospital’s emergency ward is also liable to a civil lawsuit for damages, he added.
Public Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also attended the seminar, said he had ordered hospitals to take legal action against anyone committing violence against health workers.