The medical profession has never been so exposed to violence. This is revealed by the 2022 edition of the Doctors’ Safety Observatory, presented by the Council of the Order of Physicians on Tuesday. Conclusions that resonate in the minds of the French, when a 38-year-old nurse died Tuesday morning following a knife attack at the Reims University Hospital.
During the year 2022, 1,244 incidents were reported by doctors in the territory, the highest number ever recorded by the Order, which has carried out this measurement for twenty years. That is an increase of 23% compared to 2021, when 1,009 incidents were recorded.
“There is a visible challenge vis-à-vis certain professions which were once protected, such as firefighters, police officers, doctors and all medical personnel”, underlined Jean-Jacques Avrane, delegate to the observatory for the safety of doctors, during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
The vast majority (71%) of these incidents concerned general practitioners, who nevertheless represent less than half of the territory’s medical population. “They are more vulnerable because patients can consult them sometimes without an appointment, their door is always open,” noted the delegate.
Of all aults, the majority take place in the city center (56%), while the figures are around 20% respectively for rural areas and suburbs. Similarly, only a quarter of incidents take place in hospitals or clinics. The rest takes place in liberal cabinets.
“The figures are clearly underestimated, the doctors do not necessarily have the reflex to report the incidents with which they are confronted”, underlined Jean-Jacques Avrane. He explains that some practitioners refuse to “punish” their sometimes violent patients by filing a complaint. “A lot of doctors are hesitant to report for empathy reasons,” he explained.
To explain these rising tensions, the Council of the Order of Physicians cites, among others, difficulties in getting an appointment , which lead to frustration and an increase in the aggressiveness of the patients. This is all the more the case when it comes to medical specialists with whom it is sometimes very difficult to obtain a consultation. Among these specialists, it was psychiatrists and then cardiologists who reported the most incidents last year.
As for the type of aggression, 73% are verbal, often made up of threats or insults towards the healthcare professional. Among the reasons invoked, we find reproaches related to the care of the patient, a refusal of a prescription (medication or work stoppage), the request for falsification of documents or a waiting time deemed excessive.
It should be noted, however, that 6% of the incidents recorded in 2022 gave rise to total incapacity for work (ITT) resulting from significant physical or psychological consequences.
Of the more than 1,200 reports made by doctors, less than a third gave rise to a complaint, and 8% to a handbook. “It’s unfortunate, because filing a complaint makes it possible not to leave things as they are and to fight this scourge […] These figures are only the visible face of the iceberg”, regrets Jean-Jacques Avrane.