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Caregivers at Waypoint need self-defence training now: OPSEU

Penetanguishene – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is demanding that Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care provide caregivers with specialized training in self-defence.  Waypoint includes a maximum-security forensic division that is home to patients who have been found not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial by the courts. 

Workers say patient-on-staff attacks at the facility are becoming more frequent and more severe.  There have been at least four serious assaults on staff in the last four months alone.  However, workers are not adequately trained to defend themselves.

“The kind of training we receive now is useless if you ask me,” said Local 329 President Pete Sheehan.  “We are supposed to use CPI (Crisis Prevention and Intervention) which teaches you therapeutic holds for when a patient becomes violent.  But what happens when things escalate?  Are we supposed to just sit there and get beaten to a pulp?  We need proper training that will teach us how protect ourselves in the event of an attack.”  

OPSEU has submitted a series of recommendations to Ontario’s Minister of Labour and the Minister of Long-Term Care, to make the workplace safe.  Among them, is a call for specialized self-defence training that takes into account the work environment and the patient population.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has worked in the mental health care field for most of his adult life, and understands the unfortunate need for workers to be able to protect themselves from violence.

“It saddens me to hear about the increasing number of assaults perpetrated against caregivers these days,” said Thomas.  “Mental health workers are among our most vulnerable health care workers, and they deserve better tools to keep them safe than what they’re currently getting at Waypoint.”    

“The reality is, without self-defence training, caregivers are at greater risk of becoming seriously hurt, or even killed in the event of an attack.  Waypoint’s management needs to recognize they don’t have the luxury of time.  We are talking about potentially saving lives here.  They need to act, and they need to act now.”

For more information:  Pete Sheehan, 705-209-9050