Harassment of health workers widespread during pandemic, study findings

According to a new study, public health workers have faced at least 1,499 cases of workplace harassment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published last week by the American Association of Public Healththe study compiled its overview of workplace harassment against healthcare professionals by combining “media content and a national survey of local health departments in the United States.”

The driving force behind the increase in harassment during the pandemic, the study concludes, has been the hyperpoliticization of how best to slow the spread of COVID-19. That ensuing cultural divide made it a target for health professionals.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic and other co-occurring public health challenges, public health officials described experiencing threats and harassment, social villains and exclusion, and the undermining of their professional duties by misaligned politics and inadequate infrastructure for public health,” the spokesperson said. study states.

Interviews with state and local health care providers included in the study revealed a surprising pattern.

“I get threatening messages from people saying they’re looking at me. They followed my family to the park and took pictures of my children,” a Midwestern health care provider told the study authors. “I know my job is to speak up front about the importance of public health: educating people and keeping them safe. Now it scares me a little. … If they’re going to photograph my family in public, I have to think, is it really worth it?”

Doctors in a hospital talk about a patient with COVID-19.

Doctors discuss a patient with COVID-19 at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut in January. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Ultimately, that healthcare worker chose to resign in 2020 instead of continuing to put up with threats. Overall, the study notes that “non-physical violence in the workplace by patients is associated with decreased job satisfaction and burnout.”

dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the reports of attacks on public health officials “unacceptable.”

As of early 2020, just over 971,700 Americans have died from COVID-19, while nearly 80 million more have tested positive for the disease. While these numbers alone would be enough to bring health professionals to a breaking point, the added stress caused by harassment from patients and community members upset about vaccines and mitigation measures is enough to prompt many to make their career choices. rethink.

“Every day I was thrown out on Facebook. My kids were addressed at school. They would get emails about their father closing restaurants and needing masks,” a practicing physician in the western US told the researchers. “So, you know, people were talking to my kids. My wife was approached in the supermarket. I know a county health officer south of me who ended up with a death threat. And so it’s surprising how much anger came out about this. They’ll still put on your seatbelt, they’ll put their tray on the table when they’re on the plane, they’ll give their kid an MMR shot before they go to sixth grade. And suddenly the mask becomes this massive invasion of their private freedom, and so that was surprising.

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