“This is a symptom of a massive, systemic management problem around violence and psychological safety we see in mental health care." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (19 July 2016) — On July 18, Justice Bigelow of the Ontario Court heard a case against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Attacks on nurses spur charges against CAMH
The case involves 2 different attacks on nurses working at the Centre. One nurse in the case was so badly assaulted by a patient at CAMH in January 2014 that she was left with serious vision impairment. Nancy Pridham, President of Local 500 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), said of the nurse, “the trauma she experienced has left her so fearful, it is unlikely she can ever work again.” A second nurse in the case was also seriously injured following an assault that happened at the hospital. Neither employee ever returned to work.
The trial coincides with the Faas Foundation’s announcement that it has withdrawn its $1 million donation from CAMH’s Well@Work program after CAMH failed to demonstrate that the first instalment was used towards the designated program.
“This is a symptom of a massive, systemic management problem around violence and psychological safety we see in mental health care,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “My members have been pushing for years to see hospitals take this issue seriously and implement the necessary safeties.”
Previous charges against CAMH charged under Occupational Health and Safety Act
This is not the first charge of its kind at CAMH. In 2009, the hospital was fined $70,000 after pleading guilty to two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following 2 separate incidents involving nurses who were assaulted on the job.
“How many trials do we have to see before something finally changes?” asked Pridham. “We know employees experience vicarious trauma on a daily basis, reading transcripts about pedophiles, hearing horrific stories of abuse, and that they have witnessed repeated assaults on their own colleagues."
“What does CAMH offer, you ask? Online surveys for staff. An online survey doesn’t scratch the surface of what we need,” Pridham said. “We need safe workplaces now."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE