(Canadian OH&S News) — The British Columbia Ministry of Health (MOH) has begun developing an action plan to address the issue of healthcare professionals and on-the-job violence, following a summit with healthcare unions and other industry stakeholders on April 7.
The Summit to Prevent Workplace Violence in Health Care, which took place in Richmond, brought together B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia (HSA), the B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) and others to discuss patients’ violence against nurses and other healthcare workers. The day-long event consisted of presentations by unions, occupational health and safety representatives and frontline care workers, as well as open discussions around ideas and solutions.
“We got a lot of positive feedback from everyone,” said MOH public-affairs officer Nicole Beneteau. “Everyone really appreciated the opportunity to address the issue and come together, since a lot of these stakeholders don’t often get to be in a room together.”
Beneteau added that the ministry had committed to developing an action plan. “It’s slated to be completed by early summer, and so it’ll take into consideration all of the discussions that went on at the summit from the variety of stakeholders and use that as a guide to develop some solutions.”
Lake initiated the summit in response to a public call for action by HSA president Val Avery, who had requested a meeting between key B.C. healthcare-sector stakeholders in a press release on Dec. 11.
“Today, we made a good start towards working in a coordinated way to improve how we prevent violence in healthcare settings,” said Avery in a press statement following the summit. “I thank Minister Lake for taking up my call to action and inviting a wide range of healthcare workers, management and specialists to exchange frank ideas.”
Avery also said that there was more work to do on this problem and that she was hoping to make “meaningful progress” with industry partners this year.
“Violence has affected healthcare workers and their patients for years,” she said. “Our members and their patients deserve to feel safe in the place they come to heal and be healed.”
BCNU president Gayle Duteil told COHSN that the union welcomed all discussion about preventing workplace violence.
“Nurses are still facing a threat of violence every day, and we need action now,” she said. “BCNU has been involved in intense negotiations with the Ministry of Health lately, and we’re encouraged by the government’s commitment to making nurses’ worksites safer.”
These negotiations have involved making proposals to the ministry for an action plan, Duteil elaborated. “It’s my understanding that they’re going to consider or going to work collaboratively to implement some of our thoughts regarding more safety officers, better alarm systems including personal alarms, regular and ongoing and supportive training in violence prevention and staffing levels that don’t put nurses in danger.”
The MOH recognized that violence against healthcare professionals had recently become an issue of high concern, Beneteau said. On March 1, an agitated patient attacked a nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre in Abbotsford, resulting in surgery and stitches for the victim. In another incident, a Penticton psychiatrist was beaten severely by a client in late 2014.
“In the last year, there have been some more high-profile cases that have come up,” noted Beneteau. “In light of everything that’s been happening over the past year, we’re going to listen to our stakeholders.
“It’s an important issue that deserves discussion.”
Duteil noted that it had taken too long for this issue to get the attention it required and that the union had been lobbying for change for years.
“I have several nurses off right now that are off recovering from injuries,” she said. “There’s certainly an increasing, escalating violence in the society as a general, and it’s filtering into the hospitals.
“We can’t let it continue.”