Portugal Tests 'Panic Buttons' for Doctors and Nurses

Giuliana Miranda

July 16, 2019

Lisbon - With an increasing number of complaints of violence against healthcare professionals, Portugal has launched a pilot project which provides a kind of 'panic button' for doctors and nurses in the country's National Health Service.

The resource will initially be tested in three hospitals in Amadora in the region of Greater Lisbon: the Brandoa Personalised Healthcare Facility, the Amato Lusitano Family Healthcare Facility, and the Fernando da Fonseca Hospital.

The device sends a rapid message indicating danger and should be activated when the healthcare professionals feel threatened.

The button enables security teams to respond quickly.

Awareness Campaigns

The idea is for the security alert to be activated from any computer in the healthcare facility and for it to only need to be pushed for a few seconds.

Apart from the panic button, the Portuguese government also wants to invest in training healthcare professionals how to deal with dangerous situations and awareness campaigns against violence.

The results from the first three healthcare facilities need to be monitored for between 6 months and a year. The Ministry of Health's idea is to expand the scheme to other locations across the country.

The project currently being implemented in Portugal is inspired by a similar one being used in Spain. After a series of threats and acts of aggression against healthcare professionals, a large hospital in the Galícia region implemented a security system in mid-2018.

Available on 50 computers initially, it will be rolled out to 1000 devices in Spanish healthcare facilities by the end of 2019.

Global Problem

Classified as an emerging problem by the World Health Organisation (WHO), violence against healthcare professionals affects the whole world.

The organisation estimates that between 8% and 38% of professionals in the field have been the victims of violence at some point in their careers.

There has been an increase in the number of complaints in Portugal. Data from the Directorate-General of Health (DGS) show that there were more than 400 in just the first 6 months of 2019. There were 678 cases in 2017.

In order to help combat the problem, the Portuguese Medical Assocation launched a support service dedicated to situations of violence and burnout in May.

Physical and mental aggression are often linked to problems such as a decrease in professional self-esteem, a loss of job satisfaction, trauma, powerlessness, and increase in legal costs and absenteeism within teams.

Translated from Medscape Portuguese Edition

Violence against health workers. World Health Organisation. Published 2019.


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