(Canadian OH&S News)
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is working to arrange a meeting with the provincial government and the Ministry of Health to develop a strategy for preventing physical harm against nurses. This follows a June 9 incident in which a patient beat up a nurse and injured three others at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket.
“I’ve spoken with one of the Premier’s staff, who have acknowledged the letter and the request we sent in,” said ONA president and registered nurse Linda Haslam-Stroud. “I don’t have any date set yet, but I expect we’ll be getting together to discuss further how to develop some kind of action plan.”
Southlake nurses had already been requesting extra security for dealing with Form 1 patients (defined as patients who are considered risks to themselves or to others), but nothing was done, Haslam-Stroud charged. The centre’s management had even taken away the nurses’ panic buttons months before the incident because they were deemed too expensive, according to Haslam-Stroud but returned the buttons after the attack.
ONA sought criminal charges against Southlake following the June attack, alleging the hospital disregarded nurses’ safety. The York Regional Police (YRP) did lay an assault charge against the patient, but filed no charges against the hospital itself.
“Police conducted a thorough investigation on the allegations the nurses had made,” explained Constable Laura Nicolle of the YRP. “There were extensive consultations with the Crown’s office, which determined this was an issue of internal policy and didn’t meet the threshold of the criminal offence under Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code.”
Matt Blajer, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, added that the ministry is currently investigating the Southlake attack, but couldn’t provide further details.
On July 23, Southlake released a public statement praising its own staff for their response to the attack against the nurses. “Reaction to the incident was quick and responsive,” the press release read, adding that the hospital has since initiated an internal root-cause analysis and contacted the Ministry of Labour.
Regarding ONA’s lobbying for criminal charges against Southlake, the statement read: “It is disappointing that a request of this nature was made, considering the high priority that Southlake… continues to make with regards to the safety of its staff, physicians, volunteers, patients and their family members.”
Haslam-Stroud isn’t convinced. There have been further violent incidents at the hospital involving Form 1 patients incidents to which the hospital has failed to respond to appropriately, she charged. “There needs to be a higher level of acknowledgement by the employer of the seriousness of the risk, specifically with Form 1 patients.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, ONA is hopeful that it can work something out with the government. “I know the Ministry of Health at the higher level and certainly the government are very interested in ensuring we have safe workplaces,” Haslam-Stroud said.