OHS Canada Magazine

Nurses want action after violent incident at Elliot Lake hospital

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October 22, 2020
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety hospital Nurses violence Workplace

Violent outburst by patient damaged hospital equipment, property

By Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(SUDBURY, ONT., The Sudbury Star) — The emergency department at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Elliot re-opened to the public on Friday after a violent incident forced staff to temporarily halt services.

An eyewitness told The Sudbury Star that a patient became agitated and started yelling about the state of the health-care system before having a violent outburst that damaged hospital equipment and property.

An ambulance bypass was initiated, and EMS vehicles transported patients to the hospital in Blind River. All walk-in patients were also advised to travel to Blind River for treatment.

No one was injured during the incident, and after some repairs and cleanup, the ER reopened to the public later that day.

The East Algoma OPP said that the investigation into the incident is ongoing, and officers are still conducting interviews with some of the hospital staff.


The hospital has not responded to The Sudbury Star‘s request for comment.

Employers remain unprepared: ONA

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) called on St. Joseph’s General Hospital and all provincial health-care leaders to take “immediate action to keep healthcare workers and their patients safe from violence” on Tuesday in response to the incident.

“A serious incident in the emergency room of St. Joseph’s General Hospital has again demonstrated just how unprepared this and many employers are for workplace violence,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna.

“It is unacceptable that a patient was able to do extensive damage in the hospital while registered nurses and health-care professionals — and their patients — were unprotected. From what we understand, the issues that are being investigated include whether there were any security personnel on site, whether the code white called by registered nurses and staff could be heard by everyone, and how sufficiently trained staff were on the proper use of panic buttons.”

McKenna said that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised stress levels for health-care staff and their patients.

“The last thing our skilled and dedicated front-line nurses and health-care professionals need to worry about is violence,” she said.

She added that there is often a lack of security, staff, training, and policies and procedures in place for “unpredictable patients.”

To reduce the number of violent incidents in the workplace, the ONA would like to see government action.

The ONA is a union that represents more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.


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