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COVID-19 and violence against health care | Safer COVID-19 response: Checklist for health-care services

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Manual and Guideline
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I. BACKGROUND

Who is this checklist for?

Managers of health-care services, individual practitioners and health policymakers worried about the impact of violence against health-care workers, facilities and patients during the COVID-19 response.

What is violence against health care?

By “violence against health care” we mean violence against health-care professionals, health-care facilities, medical vehicles or patients and their families. This might include the use of physical force – threatened or actual – against a person, group or community that results in or will likely result in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. Blocking access to health care, such as through non-medical discrimination or preventing ambulances from circulating, is also considered an act of violence against health care.
Remember that health-care workers, facilities and vehicles must be properly identified so that they are protected from attack, and health-care workers must always comply with the ethical principles of their profession.

Has there been violence against those responding to COVID-19?

Although health-care workers responding to COVID-19 have generally been met with an outpouring of support and gratitude, there have also been alarming incidents of health workers being stigmatized, ostracized, harassed or threatened for allegedly spreading the virus. Isolation and treatment centres have been attacked by communities who do not wish to host them, and health-care professionals have faced aggression when patients don’t understand procedures or refuse to comply with isolation rules.

Has there been violence against those responding to COVID-19?

Although health-care workers responding to COVID-19 have generally been met with an outpouring of support and gratitude, there have also been alarming incidents of health workers being stigmatized, ostracized, harassed or threatened for allegedly spreading the virus. Isolation and treatment centres have been attacked by communities who do not wish to host them, and health-care professionals have faced aggression when patients don’t understand procedures or refuse to comply with isolation rules.

Who developed this checklist?

The Health Care in Danger (HCID) team at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The HCID initiative builds on the experience of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in various humanitarian contexts all over the world. We also work in collaboration with partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the International Hospital Federation and many others.

What does this checklist provide?

A practical, actionable summary of important measures for preventing, reducing and mitigating the effects of violence against health-care workers and patients during the COVID-19 response. It also contains a series of online references to help you understand and implement these measures.

This checklist aims to encourage local risk assessment, informed response measures and accountability and transparency towards those receiving care as a means of preventing violence against health-care workers and services. We aim to protect health-care workers’ well-being and ensure that they apply the ethical principles of health care.

What does this checklist NOT provide?

This checklist does not contain technical guidance on preventing or controlling infection among health-care workers, or on isolation and treatment.