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A pyrrhic victory: workplace safety still unaddressed at CAMH

We the North
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Toronto – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) pled guilty today to failing to protect a nurse from workplace violence, but frontline staff say the hospital is no safer as a result.

“We are so disappointed by the outcome, and by CAMH’s obvious reluctance to take responsibility for its unsafe workplace standards,” said Nancy Pridham, President of Local 500, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“CAMH was alerted by staff that the individual who eventually brutally attacked that nurse was dangerous. They did nothing. Daily, staff told CAMH that this individual was scaring them. They did nothing,” said Pridham.

The charges are related to an incident in January 2014, where a nurse was violently attacked by a patient. She has not returned to work since the incident.

“It’s clear that somebody has to die before something gives,” Pridham said. “I’m just devastated by the outcome of this trial. Fining the hospital is a slap on the wrist. They need to make tangible changes that will protect these workers.”

OPSEU has been campaigning for safer workplaces for mental health workers across the province for some time, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. He echoed Pridham’s comments. “Merely fining hospitals for failing their workers is not working. Workers are still getting hurt at an alarmingly high rate. In the end, all we see is taxpayers footing the bill and everything else remaining the same.

“But safety isn’t a luxury; it’s a right.”

The Ontario Ministry of Labour ordered the hospital to pay a fine of $80,000 as a result of the charges, but three other charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act were withdrawn.

For more information: Nancy Pridham, 416-625-6364, or Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931