CHINA - Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, plans to have police offices in all of its hospitals by the end of the year, in an expansion of efforts to protect doctors from increasingly violent attacks.
Public security departments have arrested at least eight suspects after attacks on medical workers since the city launched a special action on March 18 that will continue until the end of the year.
Medical disputes reported in the city have increased by about 20 per cent a year since 2010, the Shenzhen Health Authority says. Last year, 128 medical workers were injured in 130 cases - up from 50 in 57 cases in 2010.
"Police officers in the hospitals can quickly handle disputes between doctors and patients and stop violent attacks. Meanwhile, they will be responsible for helping the hospitals to organise and train their own security guards," said Guo Lifeng, a Shenzhen Public Security Bureau official.
To date, police offices, usually staffed by one or two officers, have been set up in 25 hospitals and will eventually be installed in 148, Guo said.
Qian Wei, director of the city's office overseeing social security, said hospital security guards should also be motivated to protect medical staff members.
At present, hospitals must employ security guards that comprise at least 3 per cent of the total medical staff members, or at least one security guard for every 20 beds.
At University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, the police office will start operating on Tuesday, said Chen Yongxiang, the hospital's press official.
Security boosted at hospitals
"The police office will be located at the entrance to the first floor, but a policeman will be specially stationed at the emergency hall in the basement, where disputes take place more frequently," he told China Daily.
A month ago at the hospital, a man violently pushed nurses after complaining about long waiting times for his wife, while in another case, a drunken patient hit two security guards in the face.
"Our hospital has zero tolerance for violence. We hope the police office will better protect our medical staff," Chen said.
At People's Hospital of Longhua New District, which has had a police office since 2008, doctors said they felt much safer with police officers nearby.
One doctor said, "At least they can pose a threat to people who try to express their dissatisfaction through violence."
Wu Wei, who works for the police office at Shenzhen Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said officers could help to calm angry patients.
"Many patients have little legal knowledge and resort to protecting their interests by using their fists," Wu said.
The local health authority is considering whether to require all public hospitals in the city to compulsorily buy medical liability insurance.
It will choose some hospitals by June to carry out a pilot project.