Healthcare sector faces 'elevated' risks amid US cultural strife

The risks to healthcare facilities and their staff are on the rise and are expected to remain at heightened levels due to divisive cultural issues such as abortion, gender-related care and lingering tensions from discussions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ABC News reported March 4.

A confidential briefing memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 26, which was obtained by ABC News, states that the combination of socially and medically controversial issues, debated both publicly and in legal arenas, will increase the healthcare sector's exposure as a potential target for attacks by domestic extremists.

"Violent extremist threats against the healthcare and public health sector have diversified since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, and will likely remain elevated in the post-pandemic era due to the expansion of medical-related ideological grievances," the DHS bulletin reads.

The bulletin states that there could be a wide range of potential risks to the industry as these threats continue to escalate. These dangers, according to the bulletin, include potential harm to patients due to compromised care, the intimidation and harassment of clinicians leading to a "chilling effect," and ideologically driven cyberattacks targeting healthcare providers and networks.

A recent "escalation in threats of violence targeting healthcare facilities and personnel" has included "hoax bomb threats against hospitals, attempts to incite violence through doxing [publishing personal information such as addresses] and calls to execute particular physicians, public officials, or pharmaceutical executives," the bulletin reads, according to ABC News.

The upswing in threats corresponds with a rise in public discussions on medical matters that have been intensified by legislative actions and debates, as outlined in the bulletin.


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