Violence against London hospital staff reaches new high: Union

Hospital says more people are reporting.

Violence at London hospitals is at an “all-time high,” according to the head of health and safety for the nurses union that represents RNs at University Hospital.

The culture at London Health Sciences Centre must change, Alan Warrington told members of ONA Local 100 at their general membership meeting in March - writes

“Violence is at an all-time high and this needs to change. We need to change the culture among ourselves and that takes work. We now have metal detector wands, contraband policies and countless other changes. It is a slow process and preparatory time is necessary,” said Warrington, according to minutes of the meeting March 14 at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn.

“We had a big event last year where they had an (Ontario Labour Ministry) appeal over a near rape, as our employer doesn’t do a good job speaking up for RNs or any front line staff. Our sister unions aren’t as vocal for protecting members as it is RNs that are more front line,” Warrington said.

Asked by The Free Press about the comments by the union leader, a London hospital official admitted the number of violent incidents has grown, but suggested that might be because LHSC is doing so much to encourage staff to report problems.

“There has been an increase in the number of violent incidences reported year over year at LHSC,” hospital vice-presidentSusan Nickle wrote. “However, it may not always be reflective of an increase in violentbehaviour, asLHSC continues to encourage reporting and appropriate follow-up.”

The comments by Nickle came one year after a patient with a violent history sexually assaulted a nurse in the psychiatric ward of Victoria Hospital Easter Sunday, 2017.


Attack on nurse spurs LHSC security deal

When a Labour Ministry inspector did a cursory investigation that didn’t include interviewing staff, the union, the Ontario Nurses’ Association, pushed back, leading to a second probe and a settlement between the union and the London hospital which required LHSC to do the following:

  • Place a security guard 16 hours a day near the entrance to the psychiatric ward.
  • Empower security to use a wand-type metal detector to check patients and visitors before they entered the psychiatric ward.
  • Flag patients whose history suggests they pose a higher risk of violence, recording that flag in electronic medical records and paper reminders placed in charts or on the doors to rooms.
  • Build physical barriers at the entrances to nurses’ stations.
  • Hire a third party to assess the hospital’s security measures.
  • Discuss with alarm maker Honeywell ways to improve the hospital’s panic alarm system.
  • Enhance training for staff who work in higher-risk wards, including emergency, the psychiatric ward, a second-­floor annex used to house patients with mental illness for whom there is no space in the main ward, an outpatient clinic for those with mental illness, a ward for elderly with behavioural problems and the medical ward whose patients can include injection drug users, even drug dealers, according to the union.

“In addition to our existing adverse events reporting system and consistent appropriate corrective action follow-up, LHSC is also in the process of updating our flagging policy, including a new tool to assess violence,document triggers and other key aspects of the care plan,” Nickle wrote this week.

Last year’s sexual assault didn’t come to light until The Free Press learned of the settlement in November.

While London hospital official say they are encouraging staff to come forward to report violence, a study unveiled last year found that, across Ontario, only a fraction of violence against health care workers is reported.

“Violence in Ontario’s health-care system has come to be seen as normal or as unavoidable,” wrote authors James Brophy of the University of Stirling, and his wife, Margaret Keith, of the University of Windsor, in their study, Assaulted and Unheard: Violence Against Healthcare Staff. The authors called for better protection of whistle-blowers.

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