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Charges against Waypoint must lead to safer conditions: OPSEU

Charges laid against the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act must lead to greater protection for staff and patients, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

“We welcome the charges but they won’t amount to much unless real, long-term solutions are found to ensure that employees and patients can move about freely inside the facility without fear of being harmed, or worse,” said Pete Sheehan, president of OPSEU Local 329, which represents almost 1,000 staff at the mental health facility northwest of Barrie.

Three charges of failure to protect staff and operating an unsafe workplace were laid yesterday against Waypoint by the Ministry of Labour. The charges stem from an April 2016 incident in which four workers were injured and one, a registered nurse, was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver and suffered a broken nose during the attack. The charges carry a maximum fine of $500,000. A first appearance in court is scheduled for April 6.

After several other April 2016 incidents, OPSEU recommended a 10-point safety plan that called for a dedicated team to respond to incidents. The plan also included training in victim extractions, dedicated security on all units, walk-through metal detectors, and sufficient staffing levels to operate full programming for patients. None of these recommendations have been implemented.   

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the charges against Waypoint represent a troubling trend inside the province’s mental health institutions.

“Scarcely a day goes by when we don’t learn about another violent incident inside one of our mental health centres,” said Thomas. “If convicted, management should ask itself whether they’re better off by paying fines or whether they should be putting that same money into better health and safety measures.  The fact remains that too many patients fear for their safety inside, and too many workers fear coming to work each day not knowing if they will leave work safe and healthy.”

For more information: Pete Sheehan 705-209-9050