With COVID-19 came reports of a spike in violence against healthcare workers, and ongoing ramificati­ons of the pandemic such as treatment delays and staff shortages have the potential to exacerbate the problem. It’s a scenario that troubles Dr Wong. “I do think that the public in general are very understand­ing … but the public tolerance can only go so far,” he says.

He believes the issues with staffing that are plaguing the healthcare industry are not going away any time soon. “I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I do think that we are in a situation where we are waiting for people to get angry, and that anger may then, therefore, in a small proportion of cases, turn into violence.”

In the years since Dr Wong was attacked, he has noticed an increase in the presence of security at hospitals, and that the guards are better equipped, too. “I think now visibly we can see more security guards in the hospital areas,” he says, giving the example of Royal Melbourne Hospital where he runs a clinic, and where there is a security guard standing at the entrance.

Given the entrance foyer of a hospital is a very busy public area, he says this is a welcome measure – but more needs to be done. “If I were to walk into a hospital, any hospital, generally you don’t get stopped at the entrance. Anyone from the public can go in – you can just say you’re visiting someone. And once you enter the hospital, you can literally go to any general ward, walk straight in and sit next to a patient and no-one will stop you … ever since my incident that many years ago, it never made sense to me.”

He believes there are simple solutions that are not being considered or implemente­d, such as wards having doors that are accessible by staff with swipe cards, with a doorbell system for visitors.

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