FRIDAY, Sept. 23, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Stories have grabbed the headlines during the pandemic: violent episodes in U.S. emergency rooms where patients attacked doctors.

Now a new survey shows just how widespread problem became: Two-thirds of emergency room physicians reported being assaulted in the past year alone, while more than one-third of respondents said they had been assaulted more than once. Worse, about 80 percent of emergency room doctors reported an increase in violence, and 45 percent said it had “increased significantly” in the past five years.

The survey, conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), included 2,712 US emergency room physicians and was conducted online from July 25 to August 1.

According to ACEP, COVID-19 has had an impact by eroding trust and increasing violence between patients, the medical team and staff. About two-thirds of emergency room doctors said they believe the pandemic has caused an increase in emergency room violence. About 69 percent said the pandemic has reduced the level of trust between patients and emergency room staff.

According to 89 percent of those surveyed, violence had a negative impact on patient care by increasing wait times and causing patients to leave the emergency room without seeing a doctor. About 87 percent of emergency room doctors said they lost productivity because of the violence, while 85 percent reported emotional trauma and increased anxiety.

“With emergency rooms no longer seen as safe spaces, inadequate protection of emergency medical professionals and staff, as well as patients, combined with insufficient accountability from hospitals, communities and perpetrators, can only contribute to continued violence,” Chris said. Kahn, MD, president-elect of ACEP, said in a statement. “We must do more to make sure doctors and staff can carry out their duties without worrying about threats to their well-being and safety.”

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