Medical workers are entitled to report suspected cases of new types of contagions to the local health authority, and those who raise false alarms due to errors of judgment will be exempted from legal liability, according to new measures rolled out in Shanghai.
Doctors and nurses who discover novel cases of diseases that have the potential to infect others also have the right to suggest the institution where they work takes high-level protective steps abiding by epidemic prevention and control protocols, the Measures of Shanghai Municipality on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Medical and Healthcare Workers said.
The measures, the first of their kind unveiled by a provincial-level government, were published on Wednesday and will take effect on March 1.
Luo Peixin, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Justice Bureau, said front-line healthcare workers are the closest to patients and probably have the best firsthand knowledge about such novel cases. They may help keep the city's health authorities up to date on the latest situation of certain contagions, he explained.
"But they need to make sure that they report suspected cases to the health authorities rather than disseminate information to the public before the government has the chance to investigate and reach a conclusion," Luo said during a municipal news briefing on Wednesday.
The measures, comprised of 42 articles, also ban all threats or harm against medical workers and their families.
Luo said that while receiving advice from authorities about the measures, some nurses said they had received text messages from patients threatening to hurt their children.
"So in the final version, the measures forbid all kinds of threats and harm against medical workers and their families, including verbal attacks in hospitals and through letters or online channels," he said.
The measures also say medical workers whose personal safety is at risk can suspend their work as long as doing so does not impede medical safety. Security workers should curb such behavior aimed at medical workers and report it to the police.
When medical institutions dispatch doctors and nurses to render aid to victims of natural disasters, epidemics and major accidents, those who are pregnant, on maternity leave or lactating should not be on the list of responders, according to the measures.
The measures also say institutions should help medical workers maintain their mental health and that psychological health assessments need to be carried out regularly.