“When workers are fearful of the very people they are there to help because they don’t have enough staff and resources, how can they deliver high quality care to their patients?” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President.
Toronto (12 Jan. 2015) —Two more nurses were attacked and injured this week at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) as the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE)) continue to raise concerns about growing workplace violence in the health care sector.
Growing concern about attacks on health care workers by patients
On January 4, a registered practical nurse (RPN) was struck in the face as he attempted to prevent an imminent attack by a patient on another nurse. On January 8, a registered nurse (RN) was punched in the neck by a patient and knocked to the ground. An emergency code was called in both incidents.
Both ONA and OPSEU/NUPGE have been expressing grave concerns about the workplace safety of their members and patients, both at CAMH and throughout health care facilities in the province.
“It’s high time that CAMH management recognizes — and takes steps to eliminate — the factors that are contributing to this epidemic of workplace violence,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. “The employer needs to immediately meet with us and address staffing levels, policies and risk assessment procedures. These are some of the factors clearly contributing to the violent incidents, and these are in need of urgent attention. Our nurses are there to provide vulnerable patients with the quality care they require. But they must be able to do so in a safe work environment.”
CAMH is currently facing Ministry of Labour charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act related to a violent incident from January 2014.
“We would ask the Minister of Health to pay close attention to these developments at CAMH and at other psychiatric hospitals across the province,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “When workers are fearful of the very people they are there to help because they don’t have enough staff and resources, how can they deliver high quality care to their patients?”
Conditions that allow violence against workers are mitigated when there are adequate staffing levels and trained security working 24/7
In the fiscal year 2013-2014, CAMH reported 514 workplace violence incidents, 453 of which involved physical assaults or abuse. This is a 29 per cent increase over incidents in the previous fiscal year.
While patients are more likely to become the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it, there remains significant risk to both staff and patients in the province's mental health hospitals. This risk can be mitigated, in part, by a number of actions, including adequate nurse staffing levels, and an appropriate number of properly trained security professionals present 24 hours, seven days a week.
ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.
OPSEU/NUPGE represents 130,000 workers in the Ontario Public Service, the Colleges of Ontario, and the broader public sector. That includes 47,000 professional and support staff who work in Ontario's health system and at Canadian Blood Services.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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