Healthcare staff in The Netherlands to stop working for 2 minutes: 'More needs to be done against violence'

General 2 may 2024  - Frenzs  - Translated from - NOS - ANP

The professional organization for healthcare workers, NU'91, is calling on its members to stop working for 2 minutes at 2:00 PM today. This is in response to a stabbing last month at a mental health institution in Heerlen, where a staff member was killed during her shift.

Picture ANP

NU'91 is urging all healthcare workers to participate in the stoppage out of respect for the deceased victim. They aim to use this protest to push for more measures to protect healthcare workers during their duties.

The professional organization conducts an annual survey among its members to gauge workplace safety. Participants from various sectors, including mental health services, hospitals, and disability care, contributed to this survey.

"Last year, 87 percent of the respondents were victims of aggression in healthcare," says Femke Merel van Kooten, chair of NU'91. "This could be kicking, hitting, spitting, but also death threats, both in person and online. It includes more severe physical violence, like being pinned against a wall, choking, or bone-breaking." A safe working environment is far from a reality, adds Van Kooten.

'I know where you live'

One of the healthcare workers participating in the action is Martijn van Loo from Ermelo. He works in an emergency admission department of a mental health institution. He often faces violence, he explains on the NOS Radio 1 news. "It involves being cursed at, scratched, and hit. There are also threats like 'I know where you live' and 'I will come and beat you up.'"

This greatly affects Van Loo. "It never becomes normal, even after years of working in healthcare. It makes you more fearful and sometimes a less pleasant partner, and it can keep you up at night."

Van Loo does not have a solution to this violence, nor does he expect one from the organization where he works. "They try to do enough and the manager is cooperative."

He is mainly participating in the protest to express his appreciation for the deceased victim. He also wants more attention for the profession. "We hardly ever highlight ourselves. We could do this more often so that we can better handle these complex situations."

Van Kooten agrees. "It's a very modest profession, they put their own health second to caring for others."

V&VN, a professional association for nurses and caregivers with 105,000 members, is joining NU'91's call. "With this, we want to honor the mental health worker from Heerlen and also call for a safe working environment," says Bianca Buurman, an official of the association.

'Employers are not listening'

"Not enough is being done," says Van Kooten about employers' role in healthcare. According to her, 40 percent of the respondents in NU'91's survey indicate that employers do not listen to the suggestions employees make to improve workplace safety. "There is a great opportunity here for employers. Listen to them. Perhaps an extra door is needed on the department, or we need to work with plastic plates and cutlery."

Other suggested improvements include installing alarm systems and repairing them immediately if they break, adding more staff, and giving the topic of 'safety' a larger role in collective agreements.

The Dutch mental health employers' association, representing employers in the mental health sector, told NOS that employers are also supporting today's initiative. "Everyone in healthcare recognizes this, we must never accept violence," says a spokesperson.

Asked whether employers will act on the points NU'91 has raised, he says that a lot is already being done to make the work environment safe. This includes creating clear protocols, providing training, sharing initiatives to increase safety, and adapting practices as needed.

"But 100 percent safety cannot be guaranteed. We also work with people who might exhibit dangerous behavior as part of their illness. However, the setting can enhance safety, and policy can play a significant role in this."

General 2 may 2024  - Frenzs  - Translated from - NOS - ANP