Female medical professionals, doctors in particular, are increasingly becoming “physical and emotional punch bags” for some patients and even male colleagues, reports the Sunday Tribune.
Over the past 10 days three female doctors have been on the receiving end of violent attacks and emotional abuse while on duty.
Dr Mandisa Kubeka was assaulted with a file by a patient at the Lillian Ngoyi Community Clinic in Soweto while the previous weekend, a patient stabbed two female doctors at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley, Northern Cape.
Steve Ledibane, provincial manager of the Public Servants Association in that region, said the incident was “a serious cause for concern”. The issue of safety at public healthcare facilities had been raised before, he said, “and provincial health authorities need to act decisively”.
In July, the Tribune reported on a finalised court matter regarding a 2020 incident in which Dr Ayesha Tariq was punched by the brother of her dead patient. Tariq, who was incapacitated for nine months and required facial surgery for her injuries, asked the court not to imprison her attacker.
He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment – wholly suspended for five years – provided he does not commit a similar offence in that time, and also has to attend a rehabilitative programme on anger management.
Dr Kajal Lutchminarian, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and member of the KZN Specialist Network, representing about 400 medical specialists in private practice, said cries for help had been made for years, but fell on deaf ears.
Historically, medicine was a man’s world, she said, adding that women constantly contended with misogynistic behaviour from patients, and sometimes even from colleagues.
“Male colleagues who suffer from an inferiority complex, or are threatened by a woman who can do the same work, sought to make themselves feel superior by punitive behaviour toward female juniors or colleagues.
“There is a militant culture in medicine of ’breaking you down and building you up’ and as someone who was raised in a strict family we understand this concept of character building, hard work and ’tough love’. But pathologic mistreatment and personal abuse must never be disguised as this, as there is a clear difference.”
“Abuse of women has been well documented in medicine, especially towards women of colour. Most of us have either witnessed or experienced some form of physical or verbal abuse.”
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