Toronto – A $75,000 fine for the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group after a violent attack on a frontline caregiver is a “slap on the wrist” that does nothing to address workplace violence in health care, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.
The fine was levied August 16, three years after a nurse at the Royal Ottawa’s Brockville facility was attacked and stabbed repeatedly by a patient. The Ontario Ministry of Labour had laid five charges against the hospital, which was found guilty of only one.
“It’s unbelievable that out of five charges laid, only one stuck,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. The employer has been fined, but they’re still putting people’s lives at risk. Workers in mental health facilities deal with complex, high-risk patients, and they need support to provide care and treatment in a safe environment.
“The province must take action before more frontline staff are attacked, stabbed, or worse yet, killed.”
“Workers should not have to face horrific assaults, just to gain small increments of progress,” said Ed Arvelin, chair of OPSEU’s Mental Health Division. “Our members on the ground are at their wits’ end; they go to work every day under immense pressure and in a state of fear.”
With a seat at the government’s Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care Leadership Table, Thomas has campaigned for mandatory requirements to improve safety measures in mental health facilities, including safe staffing levels, security and self-defense training for staff, flagging systems, and emergency response alarms. Despite a rash of violent incidents at facilities across Ontario – most recently at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene – the government still refuses to commit the necessary resources to workplace safety.
“The fact that the province won’t commit to mandatory minimum requirements is problematic and dangerous,” said Thomas. “In the meantime, employers know that they’ll only get a slap on the wrist.
“The government and health care leaders must act immediately on the recommendations of the Leadership Table. We don’t have time to waste; we’ve got solutions now, and we need action now.”
Thomas said all money collected through fines should be put back into fixing the mental health system and helping victims of workplace violence.
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Ed Arvelin, 807-628-9187