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01 Feb 2021

1st Feb 2021

NAME AND CONSTITUENCY OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Dr Tan Wu Meng
MP for Jurong GRC

QUESTION NO. 364

To ask the Minister for Health (a) over the last three years, what is the annual number of cases reported of healthcare workers encountering harassment or physical or verbal abuse respectively in the course of workplace duties or targeting healthcare worker roles while off-duty; (b) what proportion led to (i) police reports (ii) legal action and (iii) offences being made out as assessed by authorities; and (c) what are the eventual outcomes.

QUESTION NO. 365

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether harassment protections under the Protection from Harassment Act apply to nurses and healthcare workers facing harassment in the course of workplace duties; and (b) whether the Act protects off-duty nurses and healthcare workers who encounter harassment pertaining to their healthcare role while the worker is on public transport, in public areas, or at home.

Written Answer

The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) protects all individuals, including healthcare workers, from harassment. Based on data provided by our public healthcare institutions, the number of abuse/ harassment cases has been increasing over the past three years from about 1,080 in 2018 to about 1,300 in 2020.

Over the same period, the number of cases of harassment or abuse of public healthcare workers while on duty that were reported to the Police, under Section 6 of POHA, has also similarly risen from 40 in 2018 to 58 in 2020. The Police do not specifically track reports made by healthcare workers for abuse or harassment while they are off-duty.

Harassment of anyone, at any time, is an offence under POHA and offenders are liable to a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. Victims may also obtain Protection Orders restraining their perpetrators from further acts of harassment or sue them for damages.

Punishments are higher if the offence is directed at public sector workers in the course of their duties under Section 6 of POHA. Persons who harass or abuse public healthcare workers in the course of their work are liable for enhanced penalties, and may be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both.

Our healthcare workers deserve to work in a safe environment while they care for patients. MOH and our public healthcare institutions adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards staff abuse and harassment and will not hesitate to take appropriate actions against abuse and harassment of our healthcare workers.