SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has introduced the Tripartite Framework for the Prevention of Abuse and Harassment in Healthcare, aiming to create a safer environment for healthcare workers. The framework, a collaborative effort by the MOH, Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU), public healthcare clusters, community care partners, and private healthcare providers, consolidates recommendations released in March 2023 by a tripartite workgroup.

The framework addresses the challenges faced by healthcare workers, as a small minority of patients and their next-of-kin resort to abusive words and actions. Recognizing the impact of abuse on both victims and the trust between patients and healthcare workers, the framework aims to protect healthcare workers, prevent abusive situations, and promote positive relationships.

Key components of the framework include a common definition of abuse and harassment, standardized protocols for incident response and reporting, and follow-up actions against perpetrators. An implementation guide will be circulated to all healthcare institutions, and public healthcare clusters have committed to revising internal protocols by June 2024.

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The framework empowers healthcare institutions to take action against perpetrators, including issuing warnings, removing abusers from premises, and discharging abusive patients. A group chief executive officer highlighted the commitment to zero tolerance, emphasizing the creation of staff protection teams, training initiatives, and post-incident support.

Leading healthcare institutions such as the National Healthcare Group (NHG), National University Health System (NUHS), and SingHealth have pledged their support for the framework, reinforcing their commitment to a safe working environment. NUHS, for instance, emphasizes existing protocols, education, training, and a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.

In addition to institutional support, MOH plans a national public education campaign to promote positive relationships between healthcare workers and patients, encouraging a zero-tolerance culture against abuse. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of abuse and harassment definitions, fostering empathy and support for healthcare workers.

In a statement on Wednesday (13 Dec), MOH said: “Healthcare workers deserve a safe working environment like anyone else. MOH is grateful to those who have stood up for them and expressed appreciation, respect, and understanding for their contributions. Together, we can ensure that healthcare workers feel safe and supported, and this allows them to continue doing their best at their work for all Singaporeans.”

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Implementing this framework marks a significant step toward safeguarding the well-being of healthcare professionals and fostering a culture of respect and empathy within the healthcare sector in Singapore.