It has been nearly one year since a federal law came into force that made it illegal to use threats and bullying to stop a health worker from providing care to patients. It also prohibited actions that would prevent a person from obtaining health services or accessing health facilities.
This law became necessary following the escalation of harassment and threats of violence targeting health workers, along with protests at health facilities that prevented patients from accessing care.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has long advocated for protection of health care workers and patients. Results from the CMA’s 2021 National Physician Health Survey found that eight in 10 physicians have experienced intimidation, bullying, harassment and/or microaggressions in the workplace at some point in their careers. Four in 10 physicians reported that these experiences happen “frequently” or “often,” with women more likely to say they happen at least once a week.
The law protecting health care providers and patients is critically important and a welcomed measure. Now, let’s make sure the law is applied by law enforcement and that it helps protect our health workforce and patients seeking care. We still frequently hear stories of physicians and other health care workers facing threats, intimidation and other forms of abuse, especially online. This harm is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. We are pleased that the federal government has committed to establishing a transparent and accountable regulatory framework for online safety in Canada. We urge public safety officials and law enforcement agencies to enforce laws that prohibit the harassment and abuse of health care providers and patients. We all need to protect patients and those who provide them with care.
Dr. Alika Lafontaine
President, Canadian Medical Association