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Workers face escalating violence at CAMH: OPSEU

Toronto – Sunday’s vicious attack on a nurse at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is the latest example of violence growing out of control at the facility, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“When will it stop?” said Nancy Pridham, president of OPSEU Local 500, which represents about 1,500 health care workers at the Queen St. W. institution in Toronto. “When will management at CAMH come to their senses and acknowledge that assaults and violence are escalating and that they have put ineffective measures in place to prevent more workers from becoming seriously injured? For executives at CAMH, the violence is treated as nothing more than, ‘business as usual.’”

On October 23, a registered nurse at CAMH was seriously assaulted as she left a room, and was then punched in the face and dragged into a second room where a patient continued a beating.

Sunday’s incident is merely the latest example of a rising tide of violence against workers in Ontario mental health facilities this year.  Pridham dubbed 2016 as, “the year of violence against mental health workers.”

CAMH is ground zero for violence and assaults. In April, a worker was attacked in a dining room and suffered a concussion after taking blows to the head. In August, a cleaner suffered a broken nose while inside a patient’s room.  Earlier this month, a worker had her brassiere yanked by a patient. It was left to a workplace colleague to call police to investigate after management was slow to respond. 

“These examples are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Pridham. “Scarcely a day goes by without one of our members, or others working there, reporting some form of harassment, assault or violence. I put responsibility for inaction and indifference squarely at the feet of CAMH executives.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the provincial government should expand the legislative definition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to include employees of psychiatric workplaces.

“The evidence is clear: workers inside mental health facilities are just as prone to suffer from PTSD as other first responders,” said Thomas. “If the government takes this issue seriously, it will immediately amend the legislation to protect all workers in mental health and health care facilities, too many of whom arrive at work each day worried whether they will end the day injured or dead.”

OPSEU and the Ontario Nurses Association are planning an information picket next week in Toronto to bring attention to workplace violence in mental health facilities

For more information:

Nancy Pridham, President, OPSEU Local 500, 416-625-6364

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU, 613-329-1931