"Workers are being assaulted while treating patients without risk assessments being done, with inadequate security protection. One could make the case that the employer is complicit in these attacks on hospital staff." — Paul Finch, BCGEU Treasurer
Burnaby (30 August 2018) — Recent serious assaults on staff by patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Coquitlam highlight a disturbing trend that endangers the lives of workers at the facility, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
Workers at FPH endure a pattern of violence
"There have been 21 injuries to staff since May of this year by patients who are at the hospital for committing serious crimes," said Paul Finch, BCGEU Treasurer. "There has been a clear and willful pattern of neglect on the part of the employer in addressing these real and substantial safety concerns."
In the last 5 years, the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) has issued 57 safety orders at FPH and levied a $171,000 fine. There have been 102 WCB inspection reports showing the employer's failure to protect its workers. But little progress has been made to secure the safety of their employees.
Employer refuses to increase security
Unions have called for an increased security presence in rooms when staff interact with potentially violent patients. However, Connie Coniglio, the newly appointed chief operating officer, has refused, saying that the presence of security personnel could increase patient anxiety and trigger violent incidents.
"The Workers Compensation Board clearly stated in a March report that the presence of security personnel does not cause violent outbreaks," said Finch. "Workers are being assaulted while treating patients without risk assessments being done, with inadequate security protection. One could make the case that the employer is complicit in these attacks on hospital staff."
BCGEU/NUPGE asks government to intervene to protect workers
The BCGEU/NUPGE has written to the minister, calling on the government to bring the facility back into government service, and to properly fund and train a sufficient number of staff at the FPH. The union has also asked the government to ensure that the employer adhere to the Workers Compensation Act and conduct risk assessments on patients, provide adequate security personnel on site and provide funding to fill gaps in risk assessments, including self-defence training for staff.
The BCGEU/NUPGE represents more than 270 members who work at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, with the majority working one-on-one with patients as health care workers, rehabilitation workers and forensic security officers.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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