Report: 1 in 3 doctors say they were sexually harassed by a patient

Berkeley Brean
Updated: September 17, 2019 06:09 AM
Created: September 16, 2019 07:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This year, every single person working in New York state has to go through sexual harassment training.
At News10NBC, we did ours last week. So we were surprised when we tracked down a story involving doctors, nurses, and patients. \

In a report online from STAT, a medical organization called Medscape surveyed 6,000 doctors in the country. The report said 27% of doctors said they were sexually harassed by a patient, but they didn't have a way to report it.

"There appears to be an uptick in this behavior," said Dr. Sharonne Hayes of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Hayes is a cardiologist, but she also is one of the founders of Time's Up Healthcare, a movement to address equality and sexual harassment in hospitals. 

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "I was struck by the number of doctors who say they were sexually harassed by patients."

Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota: "I think that what's been in the news is bad actors who are senior, male physicians. And that's what's really been. But all along there have been both bullying patients and biased patients and harassing patients including sexual harassment."

Time's Up Healthcare wants equal pay for doctors and a reporting system for doctors, nurses and aides who are sexually harassed by a patient. Forty-two hospitals and schools signed the Time's Up Healthcare pledge, including the University of Rochester Medical Center. 

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "I was struck by the number of doctors who say they were sexually harassed by patients."

Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota: "I think that what's been in the news is bad actors who are senior, male physicians. And that's what's really been. But all along there have been both bullying patients and biased patients and harassing patients including sexual harassment."

Time's Up Healthcare wants equal pay for doctors and a reporting system for doctors, nurses and aides who are sexually harassed by a patient. Forty-two hospitals and schools signed the Time's Up Healthcare pledge including the University of Rochester Medical Center. 

In a June 4, 2019, letter attached to the signing, URMC CEO Dr. Mark Taubman said URMC stands for Time's Up Healthcare goals and wrote: "we will measure and track sexual harassment and gender-based inequities occurring in our institution." 

Rochester Regional Health System, the owner of RGH, says it has a reporting system if a doctor, nurse or aide is sexually harassed by a patient.

New guidelines from the state address this for every worker. Under the heading "Who can be a target of sexual harassment," the state says harassers can include a "client, customer or visitor."

But how do you handle a bad behaving patient who needs medical care? Hayes says you cannot kick out an in-patient. 

"But for an out-patient that is repeatedly offending, then I think hospitals need to have a way to not interact with those individuals anymore," she said. 

If you go to my Twitter page, you can hear Hayes tell the story of when she was in a room of chief medical officers, and she asked how many see an increase in bad patient behavior and how many have a policy to deal with it.

Our first emails to RRHS and URMC were at 7:49 a.m. and 7:50 a.m. Monday. We continued to communicate with both health systems all day. Around 5:30 p.m., URMC said they will be able to talk to us for this story on Tuesday. 

You'll be able to see our story with them then.


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