Brenda Myers of WCPT and Pierre Gentile of ICRC sign the memorandum of understanding in Geneva.
Brenda Myers of WCPT and Pierre Gentile of ICRC sign the memorandum of understanding in Geneva.

WCPT signs up in campaign against violence to health staff and patients

WCPT has signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agreeing that the two organisations will work together to combat violence against patients and health workers. 

The Confederation has signed up as an official partner in the four-year Health Care in Danger project, which aims to tackle threats to health services from armed violence and other emergencies. Under the agreement, WCPT will promote and inform the project and the ICRC will involve WCPT in project activities.

“WCPT is proud to be part of the movement raising awareness of this issue,” said Brenda Myers, WCPT Secretary General, who signed the memorandum at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva. “It is unthinkable but undeniable that people seeking to help those injured and disabled in conflicts and emergencies are often themselves the subject of attacks. Yet violence against health staff is still not very well recognised.”

An ICRC study published earlier this year recorded over 1,800 violent incidents affecting patients, health workers, facilities and transport in 2012 and 2013. The study documented violent incidents affecting health care delivery in 23 countries, including armed personnel disrupting hospital services and sexual violence against health staff. 

“WCPT can help raise awareness,” said Brenda Myers. “It is important that the physiotherapists working in Canada, for instance, recognise that their colleagues in another country face situations of violence on a daily basis. It is all about bringing the professional community together to better address the issue.”

“As the international organisation representing physical therapists, it is important that WCPT adds the profession’s voice of protest to those of other health professions.” Other organisations that have signed up to the Health Care in Danger project include the World Medical Association and the International Council of Nurses. 

Pierre Gentile of Head of Health Care in Danger said the partnership with WCPT was important because the project wanted to involve all health workers affected by violence, making them part of the process of sharing best practice, finding ways of improving security on the ground and placing the issue on the international agenda.

“Violence against health care is not only about doctors and nurses,” he said. “It affects a wide range of health care workers that are out there in armed conflict. Physiotherapists have an important, long-term role in countries’ health systems, and not being able to perform their duty for lack of security can affect profoundly the lives and well-being of many patients around the world.”

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