Violent incidents against Belgian nursing staff are on the up. Caregiving and nursing federations are now raising the alarm, demanding concrete measures from federal and regional health authorities. The organisations are now appealing to the government to take urgent action to protect staff, Flemish newspaper Het Belang van Limburg reports.
Almost all the care staff interviewed by the newspaper indicated that they had been victims of physical violence in their profession, or they knew a colleague who had been. A recent international survey confirms this trend, showing an increase in violent incidents against staff since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Emergency nurse and a member of the board of directors for several industry associations, Geert Berden, is sounding the alarm. This month, he will lead a delegation to appeal to the authorities in Brussels. “We want the government to take these issues seriously,” he told the press.
According to the nurse, the government must urgently address three core concerns. “Firstly, there must be a central registry where all reports are collected. Secondly, a working group must be set up to examine assaults in the care sector. Thirdly, a website must be created where caregivers can find all the information on this subject,” Berden said.
At the receiving end
Increased violence against doctors has also been reported in hospitals owned by the Vivalia group in the province of Luxembourg, as well as in Charleroi, Hainaut, and elsewhere.
Commenting to Belgian medical magazine “Le spécialiste”, Frederic Dubois, communication director of the ISPPC in Charleroi, recounted some of the abuse received by his staff.
“We had a cleaner in our Marie Curie facility who asked a patient to calm down and received a kick in the stomach,” Dubois said. “We also had a patient who threatened to kill a staff member as he arrived at the emergency room.”
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The Belgian doctor said that Covid-19 restrictions had led to a wave of violence due to frustration over pandemic restrictions, such as a ban on family hospital visits.
Violence against care staff extends well beyond the hospital. In May, an ambulance driver barely avoided being stabbed by two people who accused him of “not picking up a patient fast enough” in Charleroi.
In 2019, the Belgian Paramedics Union, Spoed 112, and other relief organisations joined forces to denounce violence against healthcare professionals, stating that “aggression and violence against professional caregivers is never acceptable” and denouncing that workplace violence was now too often seen as just “the risks of the job.”