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Protect patients and staff: labour board

Brockville – An Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) order made on May 30 that helps protect staff and patients at Brockville Mental Health Centre should be applied provincewide, according to the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“For the first time in Ontario history, a quasi-judicial body has confirmed that security personnel have a role to play on a health care team,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “This is an extremely significant conclusion, not just for Brockville Mental Health Centre, but for mental health care facilities across the province.”

The board order comes after a violent patient used a pen to repeatedly stab a nurse in the back of the neck, sending her to hospital. The OLRB ordered Royal Ottawa Health Care Group to protect nurses, other staff and patients at Brockville Mental Health Centre by, among other important measures, ensuring a 24-hour, onsite security presence, including:

  • one security officer monitor cameras in the facility’s control room 24 hours a day
  • another security officer be available 24 hours a day to provide preventive or emergency help
  • a third security officer patrol the perimeter, as needed

OPSEU represents many workers at the facility, including registered practical nurses, psychologists, housekeepers and others. Local 439 President Kevin Hudson said the union had to fight hard to obtain intervenor status in the face of employer resistance. He hailed the order as a “breakthrough.”

“This is a big win, and not just for Brockville Mental Health,” said Hudson. “We battled the employer for almost 18 months to get this basic protection. Staff in other facilities shouldn’t have to go through what we did – just so they don’t need to worry about getting stabbed at work.”

The union also represents nurses and other workers at mental health facilities around the province, such as Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, where a number of staff have been stabbed or otherwise assaulted by violent patients.

A psychiatric nurse by profession, Thomas is calling upon Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn to take immediate steps to update all mental health facilities’ policies and procedures to align them with the OLRB order.

“June 1 is Injured Workers’ Day,” said Thomas. “Workers at Ontario’s mental health facilities are being injured. There’s no reason to wait for more workers to get assaulted before taking them out of harm’s way.

“They need protection. And it’s high time they got it.”

For more information: Kevin Hudson, 613-498 5473

Download OLRB order