As workplace violence directed at healthcare workers increases province-wide, Sudbury Hospital is stepping up its anti-violence campaign with a Behavioral Escalation Support Team to provide education and support to HSN care teams and create a new internal security team
Pandemic stress and hospital staffing shortages are contributing to higher rates of workplace violence for front-line workers in Ontario hospitals, according to a new survey conducted by Oracle Research for CUPE (Canadian Union of Workers). public service).
Details of the poll were released on Tuesday and showed “a disturbing pandemic surge of physical and sexual violence against women and racially motivated attacks,” according to a CUPE press release.
CUPE said there has also been “a sharp increase in the use of weapons like guns and knives against hospital staff. The survey found that 63% of respondents have experienced physical violence and 53% report an increase in violence against themselves or a colleague. during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Nickel Belt NDP MP France Gélinas said she endorses CUPE’s call for better protections for hospital workers and is ready to reintroduce a bill that would expose the problem of violence and harassment against nurses and other health care workers.
The Speaking Out About Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Act was introduced in 2017 and eventually passed first reading. The bill did not make it past first reading and was never passed.
Despite this, Gelinas said his bill still stands in terms of protections for anyone who raises concerns about workplace violence.
“Our frontline healthcare heroes are returning home with bruises, wounds and trauma after being threatened – sometimes with a weapon. My heart goes out to them, but more than that, I know we can take action to better protect them,” Gélinas said.
“My bill, the Whistleblowing Workplace Violence and Harassment Act, would protect nurses and all healthcare workers from employer retaliation when they report workplace violence or harassment. The bill gives the government a clear blueprint to start addressing these issues, instead of punishing victims and those who speak out,” Gélinas said.
She added that violence in hospitals and other health care facilities is “too often swept under the rug”. Gélinas said healthcare workers feel that physical and verbal harassment is only part of the job.
“Violence should never be part of the job,” Gélinas said. “This problem is getting worse right now, with healthcare workers being forced to bear the brunt of public frustration caused by an overburdened and understaffed healthcare system. This is wrong, it is hurting our healthcare heroes and that needs to change.
In Sudbury, Health Sciences North shared this sentiment.
“As you know, incidents of workplace violence occur far too often in health care settings, including in Ontario hospitals. Workplace violence should never be part of the job, especially for healthcare workers who are committed to being there to care for when we need it most,” said HSN Communications Director Jason Turnbull.
He said the health and safety of medical staff, employees and everyone else at the hospital was central to one of the commitments made in HSN’s five-year strategic plan (2019-2024), which included the providing “physical, psychological and cultural support a safe environment that promotes a positive experience of care, work and learning.”
“In 2021, HSN launched the Workplace Violence Prevention Committee to address gaps and identify opportunities for system-level improvement. This committee helped launch a series of new initiatives focused on preventing violence in the workplace.
“For example, beginning with the 2021-2022 budget, HSN is now spending $1.1 million on a Behavioral Escalation Support Team to provide education and support to our care teams in all matters prevention, intervention and monitoring of risks and incidents of workplace violence. Pilot services are currently available in some high-risk units and will be available in all inpatient units by 2023,” explained Turnbull.
He said the changes also led to the hospital canceling the security guard contract and creating its own in-house security team. This includes hiring 22 new qualified guards who are undergoing additional training to support the prevention of incidents of workplace violence, while learning how to best respond to and handle violent behavior safely, Turnbull said.
“It goes without saying that any incident of workplace violence is one incident too many, and HSN’s ultimate goal is to cause no harm in the workplace. So, going forward, reducing the number of incidents of workplace violence remains an annual priority as our organization continues to focus on making the workplace safer for our employees and medical staff.” he declares.
The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) has also spoken out on the need for action. Just a year ago, the ONA published a workplace guide for people experiencing workplace violence and harassment.
The ONA said it believes all of its members have the right to work in a healthy and safe work environment. The ONA further believes in the pursuit of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations.
As one of the largest health care unions in the province and the country, the ONA believes it is its mandate to exercise strong leadership to achieve ever-increasing gains in the area of occupational health and safety.
The ONA is the union that represents 68,000 registered nurses and health care professionals, as well as more than 18,000 affiliated nursing students, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, community, clinics and industry.
Len Gillis covers health and mining issues for Sudbury.com.