Health workers attacked as patients blame poor care

Health workers in Morocco are facing a wave of attacks, perpetrated by relatives of patients, amid a health system struggling to survive staffing and supply shortages that have rendered it unable to provide care decent.

Attacks against medical staff in Moroccan public hospitals are on the rise, often perpetrated by patients and their relatives. However, a recent example concerns an attack by a criminal gang on the infant vaccination room of the Mota Allah urban health center in Marrakech on November 4, 2021, which caused outrage and anxiety throughout Morocco.

It has prompted fresh warnings from health organizations and unions that conditions across the sector are deteriorating. They say the incident raises big questions about whether the Department of Health is living up to its responsibilities in addressing major issues facing the sector and accuse it of effectively abandoning health workers to open confrontation with Moroccan citizens.

Understaffed and under-equipped

The head of the Independent Union of Public Sector Doctors, Muntazir Alawi, said the reasons for the increase in attacks on health sector personnel can be traced back to “the chaos in the health sector in Morocco”.

He continues: “There is also massive overcrowding in hospitals and clinics, all factors that prevent an effective response to patient needs. This leads to confrontations, even attacks on the part of some patients and their relatives, who hold the medical staff responsible. for the deterioration of medical services. »

“The incident raises big questions about whether the Ministry of Health is taking responsibility for addressing the major issues facing the health sector and accuses it of effectively leaving health sector workers in a open confrontation with Moroccan citizens”

Dangerous working conditions

Alawi explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arabs Sister publication in the Arabic language, that “the working conditions of doctors and nurses are appalling. Moreover, they are on the front line due to the nature of their work. Huge staff shortages as well as lack of equipment medical supplies and some drugs, and the long hours mean they work in difficult and dangerous conditions.

“Health personnel, as well as citizens, are victims of the state of the health sector. Attacks on personnel take different forms; some are clearly fueled by feelings of grievance and discontent against the health sector , because citizens hold the doctor in front of them, with whom they are in direct contact, fully responsible.However, that medical personnel suffer physical and mental aggression from patients must be considered the failure of the health sector .

Working conditions for doctors and nurses are appalling [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

He adds: “These attacks, which can be violent, must be deterred. Likewise, the ministry in charge of the health sector must face up to its responsibilities and protect the rights of doctors, nurses and health technicians who are belittled and mistreated. Strict and effective action must be taken against anyone who attacks healthcare workers while they are doing their job, implementing the necessary measures to prosecute the perpetrators in court.”

A wave of attacks

In recent months, public hospitals have witnessed repeated attacks on health workers, the most significant of which was the brutal attack on nurse Eman Sufi on October 22, during her shift at the unit. Covid-19 isolation at Hassan II Hospital in Dakhla (located in the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region) when the son of a Covid patient attacked her, banging her head against a wall before she knocking him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly.

Sufi was not the only worker in the sector to have been physically assaulted recently – there are many similar stories in public hospitals where patients or their relatives have castigated staff. On November 2, a midwife, administrative and cleaning staff at the regional hospital in Midelt (central Morocco) were attacked by relatives of a pregnant woman in the delivery room.

“Attacks on health workers are essentially an additional tax that these personnel are forced to pay in the name of their dignity and physical well-being in exchange for the chronic shortages plaguing the health system in Morocco”

Fatima Al-Zahra Blin, coordinator of the media and communication committee of the Movement of Nurses and Health Technicians (MITSAM), said: “Attacks on health workers are essentially an additional tax that these personnel are forced to pay. pay in the name of their dignity. and physical well-being in exchange for the chronic shortages plaguing Morocco’s healthcare system.” She pointed out that citizens often end up venting their anger at doctors and nurses for conditions for which they are not responsible.

Blin adds, “Assaults on medical staff have become normal in the public eye because health officials have failed to address the abusers and ensure they are prosecuted. Although these staff members work with every ounce of effort and make enormous sacrifices to contribute to the fight against Covid-19, this did not prevent them from being confronted with physical and verbal aggression in the exercise of their professional activity.

Response from the Ministry of Health

An official from Morocco’s Ministry of Health (who did not wish to reveal his name) said: “The ministry is doing everything to uphold the dignity of health workers who perform a noble humanitarian service and work around the clock to ensure public safety. the sector continues to operate despite their low numbers and difficult conditions.”

He added: “Last month, the Minister of Health and Social Protection, Khalid Aït Taleb called on the heads of the various departments of the ministry to demand that the judicial follow-up of the cases of aggression against the employees of the ministry be launched. and said this should be done alongside the strengthening of accompanying preventive measures.

“Aggressions suffered by medical personnel, both verbal and physical, are against the law and are unjustifiable and unacceptable, whatever their motives. Likewise, they violate the respect and esteem that should be accorded to health professionals and recognition of the role entrusted to them and the enormous sacrifices they make”.

He says the department is committed to “zero tolerance for attacks and will not leave employees alone to deal with abusers, and views assaults as an attack on the health service itself and itself. detrimental”.

Article 19 of Morocco’s civil service law stipulates that ministries are responsible for ensuring the protection of their employees in the performance of their duties.

This is an edited translation of our Arabic edition with additional reports. To read the original article, click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and reflects the original editorial guidelines and reporting policies of the source. Any requests for corrections or comments will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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This article is part of a series on health crises in the MENA region: a collection of articles on public health issues in the MENA region, as ill-prepared health systems continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. 19 in a region plagued by instability and war.

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