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Treat hospital staff with respect and empathy

It is time we, as a society, acted to put a stop to the habit of using abuse to get our way ("Physical and verbal abuse against nurses 'on the rise' " and "Hospital staff trained to handle difficult patients", both published on March 27; and "Tackle abusive behaviour, build patient-nurse rapport" by Mr Raymond Anthony Fernando, last Sunday).

As Singapore achieves First World status, we also need to behave accordingly.

Being unwell or anxious for our loved ones does not give anyone the right to abuse others.

I am concerned that if this habit takes root in our national genetics, it would ultimately lead to distrust in our medical professionals and institutions.

When the relationship between doctors and patients, nurses and patients, and hospitals and the public is eroded, the public will have no one to turn to for comfort, relief and cure.

There are reasons why the public can get upset, and we need to address them effectively.

In a busy emergency department or polyclinic, one should expect to wait.

Emergency departments give priority to those who need emergency care, while polyclinics cater mainly to those who are less well-off.

So, if one has an urgent need and does not want to wait, he should head to a private hospital or family physician.

The public should spare a thought for other patients and the staff. There are times when there are patients who are more ill and casualties who need more urgent care.

Medical staff work extremely hard. Being thoughtful will make their life and work easier. Conversely, disrupting their work will add misery to other patients.

However, medical staff must also take some time to address the ideas, expectations and concerns of patients and their families, so there is no lack of information.

Sometimes, we are too quick to judge. Often, what we see is not the whole story. With social media and smartphones, many will form judgments without considering the details. We need to learn to practise restraint.

Hopefully, with this in mind, we will improve on our behaviour and build a better society.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'Treat hospital staff with respect and empathy'. Print Edition | Subscribe