The relative who moved to punch a doctor

The relative who moved to punch a doctor

When Docs faced Danger


Sunday, February 03, 2019

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The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) usually carries less drama in its daily grind, but there have been times when staff members have felt threatened by irate family members whose relatives are taken there for treatment.

One Tuesday evening in the life of a male doctor, who had served the Accident and Emergency as well as Casualty departments, was one that he would never forget, as for the first time in his medical mission, he felt that he would be flattened in a physical confrontation.

It all happened after a relative of a woman, who had fallen ill and was taken to the emergency room, got boisterous and bordered on getting to the point of fisticuffs before other medical staff calmed him.

The woman had arrived at the institution, which borders Papine and Mona Heights in Eastern St Andrew, on the suspicion of having suffered a stroke, arising from a prolonged battle with hypertension and high cholesterol.

But after being seen, initially, the woman was placed on a bed and put through a period of monitoring, while staff, under pressure to cater to a crowded room, tended to other cases.

“This man just sprang up off his seat and started to cuss the staff, saying that they were not paying enough attention to his relative,” the doctor told the Jamaica Observer.

“Then he singled me out, because I was the one who initially looked at her. He then started a tirade and gave me a proper tracing out. At one point I felt that the next move was for him to punch me to the ground, because although I was walking away from him, he kept coming at me and telling me the kinds of things that he wanted to do with me.

“It was left to a security guard, who was called by a nurse, to approach the man and told him to go on the outside,” the doctor stated.

The doctor said that while he understood that there was a level of frustration on the part of the relative, he did not expect that he would have been exposed to a near physical confrontation in that manner.

“In the face of grief, that’s how the relatives of some patients behave. The UHWI is not as bad as KPH (Kingston Public Hospital), and we don’t get patients who are as aggressive as some of those who go to KPH. We get a lot of patients who often complain about how long they have to wait in the A&E department, and some get boisterous because of the delay,” one official at the UHWI told the Sunday Observer.

There is a general view that the language used by doctors to patients at the KPH is far worse than that in a comparative scenario at the UHWI, but there appears to be a reason for that.

“Sometimes if you hear how some doctors at KPH speak to patients, its shocking, but I get to understand that if you don’t speak and act rough to some patients at KPH in a rough manner, they will say that you are soft.

“We don’t resort to abusive language at the UHWI, although sometimes doctors think about it when patients and their relatives attack you verbally, but we realise that it all arises from frustration,” the official said.

As for the man who approached the doctor in a menacing manner at the UHWI, he submitted an official complaint to hospital officials, but nothing emerged from it. The doctor was not asked to submit an official report, but was asked to attend a meeting. No disciplinary action was taken against him.

“In the end, the relative was wrong and he in his report made it appear as if I was negligent in the way that I was dealing with the patient. But they don’t understand that at times when there are several emergency cases, the situation calls for skillful management of the medical human resources that you have at your disposal.

“Funny enough, in the man’s report, no mention was made of how he intimidated me, and how he threatened to harm me, including punch me,” the doctor recalled.

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