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Waypoint mental health workers demand a safer workplace

Penetanguishene – “I’ve been punched so hard I was knocked unconscious and suffered a brain bleed,” says one worker from Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.  “I’ve seen a patient throw boiling water on a co-worker’s face,” says another.  The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is launching a new campaign today to demand a safe workplace for Waypoint staff who go to work afraid they may never return home to their loved ones.

Starting this week, OPSEU is launching a series of radio ads to raise awareness on Rock 95 in Barrie and KICX 106 in Orillia.  Full-page ads will also appear in the Midland Mirror. 

Waypoint is home to many patients who have committed serious crimes but have been deemed not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial by the courts. Violent attacks committed by patients against staff are on the rise.  Yet workers say they feel management is ignoring their safety concerns.  

“This campaign could actually help save someone’s life,” said OPSEU Local 329 President Pete Sheehan.  “We are hoping to send a strong message to our management, the Premier, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care that we simply cannot and should not wait until someone gets killed before something is done to make our workplace safer.”

The dangers to staff are compounded by the structure of the building, built as a public-private partnership.  The facility was constructed as a general hospital, so the walls of the patient rooms are made of drywall.  Patients have been able to break down parts of the walls and use building materials to make weapons.  In addition, there have been numerous incidents of security equipment malfunctioning.

“I have worked in the mental health field for most of my adult life and I know first-hand the threats these workers face,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.  “We need Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government to step in and send a clear message that the lives of those on the front lines of mental health care matter.” 

“No one should ever have to go in to work fearing that they might not come out alive.”

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

Stay Safe, Be Safe Campaign Page