Pregnant nurse attacked as NSHA says investigating safety concerns a waste of time

"This is not an isolated incident, nurses and health care workers are telling us that the lack of staff and broken equipment is an issue in hospitals and health care facilities across the entire province." — Jason MacLean, NSGEU President

Halifax (27 April 2018) — A nurse was attacked and sent to hospital days after the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) called a request for an independent risk assement of violence in the workplace a 'waste of time,' says Jason MacLean, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE).

Report raises concerns about disrepair of personal security alarms

"This nurse, 33 weeks pregnant, while being attacked by a patient, was left completely vulnerable because her personal security alarm was not within reach and held together with masking tape which made it impossible to signal for help," says MacLean. "This issue was brought to the employer 2 months ago, on 2 different occasions, and each time the concerns were dismissed. This nurse could have lost a child. What more is it going to take before the NSHA takes action to protect its nurses and health care workers?"

On February 23, in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a report was submitted to NSHA management. Part of that report included concerns that

  • personal alarms (perosnal alarm locating system - PALs) were not consistently in working order
  • since the PAL is triggered by using a slide button, the tape being used to hold the PALs together prevented the emergency slide button from being easily activated. The presence of tape also hindered the use of the secondary alarm because it is triggered by pulling a string to remove the bottom plate.

The report also included a request for a risk assessment of violence in the workplace be conducted by a qualified independent authority.

NHSA dismisses concerns about worker safety

These concerns, along with other health and safety concerns, were not addressed to the satisfaction of the employees so, on March 28, a report was submitted to the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee. In a follow-up meeting on April 16, the employees were told a violence in the workplace risk assessment would be a waste of time.

"One week after having their safety concerns dismissed this nurse was attacked. If not for others hearing her screams who knows what the outcome could have been for her and her unborn child," says MacLean. "For too long the NSHA has turned a blind eye to the safety concerns of nurses and health care workerswho are doing their best to hold a broken health care system together. These are dedicated women and men who are committed to caring for sick and vulnerable people. They should be given the tools to do their jobs safely."

NSGEU/NUPGE calls for immediate risk assessments

The NSGEU/NUPGE is calling on the NSHA to immediately conduct the risk assessment on violence in the workplace risk assessment, a staff assessment andan  equipment assessment in all provincial health care facilities, starting with the East Coast Forensic Hospital.

"This is not an isolated incident: nurses and health care workers are telling us that the lack of staff and broken equipment is an issue in hospitals and health care facilities across the entire province," says MacLean. "This is first-hand proof that our health care system is being held together by tape. It's no exaggeration that someone is going to die if these concerns are not properly addressed."

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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