Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (FP)

Violence in health care institutions will be the focus when the Ministry of Health implements its policy relating to this issue.

This was a key message sent by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he addressed the launch of the newly-formed Steering Committee on Violence in Primary Health Care Institutions at the Ministry’s headquarters, Frank Walcott Building.

In explaining the rationale for the Committee’s formation, Mr. Inniss stated that it was a response to concerns expressed by staff at the island’s polyclinics about the incidence of violence in their workplace. He acknowledged that similar challenges faced the entire health care system as a result of aggressive, violent behaviour and unbecoming attitudes on the part of some persons in the society and stressed that he was committed to zero tolerance of violence in health care institutions.

He said: "We are all aware of the challenges of violence. It can result in lower productivity and impaired labour relations… absenteeism in the workplace; [and] having to find someone as a replacement for that employee.??

It can include the cost of not having that valuable officer available to the public sector. It is also about the trauma which that individual goes through that is not quantifiable and the challenges that person’s family must face."

Maintaining that no-one should have to live in fear from work colleagues or those who visit healthcare institutions, Minister Inniss revealed that aggression could manifest itself in multiple ways that included staff against staff, patient on staff, and patient on patient violence.?? He stressed: "Whenever there is violence productivity will be at its lowest and patient care will be compromised. We are also mindful that employees will have personal differences and this can result in behaviour that is not becoming."

Mr. Inniss also lamented that not enough emphasis was being placed on contemporary measures of human resource management that could determine whether issues outside of the workplace were affecting employee behaviour.

The role of individuals in ensuring appropriate behaviours was also alluded to by the Health Minister, who added: "Our society has a duty to instill some standards and enforce them. What happens out there in the society is what would happen in our health care institutions. If we don’t as adults set proper examples, we cannot expect young people to follow."

And, he condemned the actions of those who dress inappropriately while seeking medical attention, for example wearing oversized pants that display their undergarments. He said; "It is not just the attire that concerns me, but the behaviour which usually accompanies it."

The Minister also urged the Committee to holistically consider what measures could be employed by the Ministry to reduce violence as there were "emotions" that could build up in situations of prolonged waiting for medical care. In addition, he suggested that health care providers "think outside the box", and he alluded to efforts by some polyclinics to install televisions to rectify this problem.??

He further noted that this could also be enhanced with the use of healthy lifestyle programmes and promos that could make people less agitated while waiting.

Members of the committee were, therefore, encouraged to deliberate widely and to consider short, medium and long-term strategies that could involve the use of identification cards, increasing staff, as well as improvements in workflow.

While thanking them for their service, Mr. Inniss said: "I want you to do your work diligently and with a great sense of purpose… I appreciate that we are speaking about changing a culture, but that cannot happen overnight. It is not just about creating a document, but about implementing strategies which look at violence and aggression in the workplace…"

The newly-formed steering committee is multidisciplinary in nature comprising representatives of the Labour Unions, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Labour Department, the Government Information Service, the University of the West Indies and staff of the Ministry of Health.

Already, there are ongoing efforts to document the experiences of polyclinic staff with respect to violence. There is a report, led by the Senior Medical Officer of Health at the Randall Philip’s Polyclinic, Dr. Arthur Phillips and an ongoing survey by Lecturer in Family Medicine, Dr. Euclid Morris, of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. Both are members of the Steering Committee.


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