KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported a significant rise in workplace violence against its staff prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to internal data released today.
Health director-general (DG) Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said incidents of workplace violence against MOH staff rose by 196 per cent from 167 cases in 2017 to 494 cases in 2019, before dropping to 321 cases in 2020 and 260 cases in 2021 during the pandemic. Data for the year 2022 was not provided.
“The rise in workplace violence against MOH staff has had negative effects on their psychological and physical safety and health, leading to decreased work performance and lower quality of health care services,” Dr Muhammad Radzi said in a statement.
The MOH launched the second edition of the Guidelines for Preventing and Managing Violence Against Workers in Health Facilities as part of the country’s observance of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023 today, which promotes safe and healthy workplaces.
The new guidelines aim to enhance existing guidelines with better definitions, scope, handling of violence cases, and notification processes, Dr Muhammad Radzi said.
The Health DG said the launch of the guidelines is an important step in creating a safe, prosperous and productive workplace. The MOH hopes that the guidelines will lead to more effective handling of violence against workers, thereby ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its staff.
It is unclear, however, whether the latest guidelines for preventing workplace violence within the Ministry of Health (MOH) apply solely to cases of violence by patients against MOH staff, or if they also cover instances of workplace bullying among MOH staff.
According to Powerpoint slides presented during a technical meeting on March 7, 2023, the latest guidelines identify various factors that contribute to workplace violence, such as work-related stress, insufficient rest, inadequate support from colleagues, ineffective leadership, lack of supervision, and personality or social factors.
CodeBlue’s poll among 1,652 government health care workers nationwide in January found that a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents said they face workplace bullying, while two per cent (35 people) said they face sexual harassment at work.
The survey found that the prevalence of bullying is highest among house officers. Of the 187 house officers who participated in the poll, 41 per cent (77 individuals) reported being bullied at work, with the majority of those affected being female and working at MOH hospitals. Many cited long work hours and an overwhelming workload as common issues.
Additionally, the survey revealed that 25 per cent of medical officers (263 individuals) also reported being victims of bullying in the workplace.
Based on the initial workplace violence guidelines released by MOH in 2017, “violence” is defined as any behaviour that involves physical, verbal (threats), sexual, or written attacks aimed at injuring, causing damage, or causing psychological harm to the victim.
Meanwhile, “harassment” is defined as behaviour that is perceived as unwanted or disliked, regardless of its form, such as verbal, physical, visual, or psychological, and is usually repeated over time. “MOH staff” refers to any worker who serves in MOH facilities, including those in the public sector and those on contract or concession.
The guidelines are intended to be used in conjunction with existing laws in the case of workplace violence. These laws include the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Penal Code (Act 574), which covers offences such as public disturbance, provocation, assault, and endangerment of lives, among others.