Healthcare workers frighteningly face assault all too often, including verbal, sexual and physical, with some of these instances including gun violence. This may rise as we attempt to combat the opioid addiction epidemic.
Las Vegas unfortunately has seen multiple cases, especially when it comes to shootings that involve medical offices. This week four people were injured when a patient walked in asking for a walk-in appointment at the Center for Wellness & Pain Care. When he was denied, he shot at employees before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide. All the victims of the shooting are expected to recover.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time gun violence has involved medical personnel for suspected pain related issues.
In 2003, David Freeman kidnapped his physician, Dr. Sheldon Mike after he refused to call in a pain medication prescription to the pharmacy. The Freeman took Dr. Mike by car at gunpoint to a drive-through Walgreens. He was stopped by police and Dr. Mike was shot in the shoulder and sustained a neck wound during the incident, but fortunately survived his injuries.
In 2006. Dr. Avi Ostrowsky survived a shooting from a long time patient who had “chronic back pain”.
In 2009, Dr. Edna Makabenta was shot and killed by her patient, Eliseo Santos, when she entered his exam room. It was reported that Santos was suffering pain from prostate cancer although the exact motive was unknown.
Industries involving customer service expose staff to hundreds of clients a day putting them at risk for altercations. However, medical staff are even more vulnerable to violence in the workplace for many reasons. Firstly, health care personnel deal with people who aren’t well, whether it's physical, emotional or mental illness. When one is in pain, or possibly suffering an addiction to narcotics, he/she may not be able to control their anger or emotional outbursts.
Secondly, clients of the healthcare industry are more often disgruntled and frustrated with the medical system, whether it be wait times, cost, or lack of getting their desired services.
Thirdly, medical staff frequently have to say “no”, or deny services to their clients whether it's a medical insurance issue or an “unsubstantiated request” for pain prescriptions. With the ongoing opioid epidemic, medical offices feel pressured to deny prescription requests, therefore angering more patients.
Medical facilities strive to ensure the safety of all their patients. Many are not equipped, however, to protect those in the waiting or exam rooms from gunfire.
As we gear up to battle the opioid crisis we need to avoiding thrusting millions of people into narcotic withdrawal. We should prepare for more disgruntled patients becoming violent when their medication requests are turned down. Narcotic withdrawal is painful and scary and more needs to be done to help those addicted to narcotics to transition and detox easier. Moreover, the need for increased security at medical offices is paramount.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.