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Caregivers should not have to work alone at Waypoint: OPSEU

Penetanguishene – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is calling on Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care to implement safer staffing levels.  Workers say patient-on-staff attacks are becoming more frequent and more severe.   Yet caregivers at Waypoint often have to work alone, which puts them at greater risk for violence.    

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. 

“Waypoint management is only adding to our risk of becoming victims of violence by making us work alone,” said OPSEU Local 329 President Pete Sheehan.  “They should be looking at every conceivable way to minimize those risks.  If we had enough staff to allow us to work in pairs at all times when delivering care, our workplace could be a lot safer than it is now.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has worked in the mental health care field for most of his adult life.  He points out that the perils of inadequate staffing, don’t end there.

“Another huge staffing issue we are finding is that Waypoint is steadily replacing full-time workers with part-time workers,” says Thomas.  “Patients are not getting the benefits that come with regular, full-time staff such as continuity of care and access to recreational programming.  These things matter when you’re dealing with a vulnerable patient population, and could actually help reduce incidents of violence.”

OPSEU says part-time staff are also getting a raw deal.  They are not given the opportunity to become full-time employees, and during an eight-hour shift they can be assigned to so many different units, that there is almost no chance for them to build a therapeutic relationship with their patients.

Safer staffing levels are only one of a series of recommendations OPSEU has presented to the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, to make Waypoint workers safer.  Others include hiring security personnel and installing walk-through metal detectors on all wards.

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