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British Columbia government, union to grant $2 million towards reducing violence at healthcare facilities

Four facilities to get safety improvements with help from Ministry, BCNU


(Canadian OH&S News) — British Columbia’s Ministry of Health is collaborating with the B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) to provide $2 million in funding to reduce occupational violence at four of the province’s healthcare facilities.

The move is part of the B.C. government’s Violence Prevention Action Plan, according to a Ministry press release dated Aug. 6. Staff at the four sites will use the money to carry out priority actions to improve worker safety over the next few months.

“Violence in the healthcare workplace is a real challenge faced by many dedicated healthcare workers on a daily basis in many cases,” B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake told reporters at a Vancouver press conference on Aug. 6, according to a transcript provided to COHSN. “But we can’t accept that this violence is inevitable or acceptable, nor should we accept that there is nothing that we can do about it.”

Lake added that this decision had stemmed from an April conference in Richmond, the Summit to Prevent Workplace Violence in Health Care, in which the Ministry, BCNU, healthcare workers and other unions and stakeholders discussed the issue of on-the-job violence in the sector.

“We have heard the concerns about safety in the healthcare workplace, and we recognize the negative impact that violence and aggression can have on the quality of working life for our healthcare providers,” said Lake.

The safety improvements that this initiative will support include the following:

  • Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health, Victoria: Security access for extra help in patient restraint, hiring of clinical nurse supervisor for mentorship and education, low-stimulation room for agitated residents;
  • Hillside Centre, Kamloops: Increase in staffing levels, increase in mental-health staff with violence-response skills, improved training and education on resolving conflict;
  • Abbotsford Regional Hospital, Abbotsford: Upgraded communication systems and panic buttons, extra security cameras, improved access to seclusion rooms for aggressive or risky patients; and
  • Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, Coquitlam: Improved distress system, hiring of coordinator for mentorship regarding violence prevention, improved orientation and training.

The four sites were chosen because they were identified as high-risk sites for employees, according to BCNU president Gayle Duteil.

“They have a high level of violence, a high level of violence-related injuries, a high level of WorkSafeBC claims,” she explained. “Abbotsford Regional Hospital, in the emergency department, sees daily violence. There’s Hillside in Kamloops, where we’ve had many nurses assaulted in the recent months and years.” Duteil also called the Coquitlam hospital “a very difficult place to work.”

Lake noted that the four selected facilities also specialize in patients with severe mental-health issues and, sometimes, a history of violence.

“These sites particularly, I think, are the ones where staff need to be supported and we need to have the right systems in place,” he explained. “We’ve made some really great improvements, working with staff and having health authorities talk with staff about their needs.

“It’s probably not possible to get to zero incidents because of the unpredictable nature of people when under physical, mental-health stress, but we want to make sure that we get that risk to as close to zero as possible by providing healthcare workers with the tools and the training they need to de-escalate and avoid those violent incidents.”

Duteil pointed out that the collaboration plans to expand the initiative to eight more high-risk facilities later this year. “It’s a very good start, but it is only a start,” she said. “Violence against nurses and against healthcare workers is an epidemic across the province of B.C., so we want to continue on until every nurse in this province feels safe going to work.”

Although pleased with the progress to date, Duteil said that she hoped to spread these safety enhancements to more than 700 more sites.

“We need to do everything we can to reduce the level of violence, and it just cannot be considered part of the job.”