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Ministry of Labour must act now to protect health care workers from violence

Brockville – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is calling on the Ministry of Labour to immediately implement measures to minimize the risk of violence to workers in health care facilities.

OPSEU is closely monitoring the start of court proceedings today against Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.  The hospital is facing five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the stabbing of a nurse in October of 2014 at its Brockville Mental Health Centre division.  The nurse was stabbed repeatedly in the throat with a pen by a female patient in the forensic treatment unit.

The Ministry of Labour charges include failing to provide information, instruction, and supervision to protect the health and safety of workers, and failing to reassess the risk of workplace violence and ensure that policies and programs protect workers.

"The safety of health care staff must be paramount, no matter what the cost. Too often, it’s an afterthought,” said OPSEU local 439 President Kevin Hudson.  “If the Ministry of Labour implements regulations that require health care employers to take steps to make their workplaces safer, there would be a marked decrease in workplace violence.”

OPSEU is pushing the government to make it mandatory for hospitals to provide an enhanced system for flagging violent patients, personal alarms for workers that are linked to security, and safe staffing levels.  The union also wants hospitals to make it standard practice for security to intervene when there is violence in order to reduce the severity of injuries to workers.

The number of violent assaults against workers in mental health care centres in particular is staggering.  At least 23 physical assaults were reported at the Brockville Mental Health Centre between 2014 and 2015.  Violence against staff is also a growing concern at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene.  On April 5, 2016 a worker was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver and three others were injured. In a show of support, staff from Waypoint are in Brockville for the trial.

“We want the government to understand that we are all on the same side,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “No one wants to see another hospital worker become a victim of violence. The time for the Ministry of Labour to act is now. ”

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas 613-329-1931