SINGAPORE - When senior staff nurse Devi Raman tried to stop a patient from breaking Covid-19 rules by leaving a ward in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, she was verbally abused and hit on the wrist – all over a glass of iced water.
The patient had been irritated that nurses were taking some time to get him the drink. “My colleagues needed to go and get ice cubes. I tried explaining to him that the water was on the way, but he started shouting,” said Mrs Raman, 33.
The patient then decided to go to a nearby convenience store to buy a drink, but patients were not allowed to leave the ward then.
When Mrs Raman touched his arm to stop him walking away, and to steady him as he was limping, the patient turned physically abusive. “My colleagues surrounded him, but he continued to shout vulgarities at me and asked who I was to stop him from leaving,” she said.
Security stepped in and doctors issued a stern warning to the patient.
“Because I have a frozen shoulder, I couldn’t move my whole arm after he hit me. I had to take painkillers,” said Mrs Raman, referring to a condition which results in stiffness in the shoulder joint.
The incident in January 2023 was not the only time Mrs Raman experienced abuse in her 11 years at the hospital, but it was the first time she lodged a police report.
“Some patients we’ve encountered are unstable. There have been patients who throw things, or take a chair to break the computer - all kinds of things. But they don’t know what they’re doing… For this case, the patient was aware of what he’s doing,” said Mrs Raman.
According to findings from a tripartite workgroup on healthcare workers abuse, almost one in three healthcare workers witness or experience abuse at least once a week.
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