Nurses Are Being Beaten: It's Time to Stop Workplace Violence

ONA requests immediate government action

TORONTO, July 23, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) is calling for a meeting with the Premier and Ministry of Health to work together with the union to develop strategies to keep nurses safe on the job.

The decision to appeal to the highest levels of government was spurred by a recent incident at Southlake Regional Health Centre in which a nurse was beaten and three others injured during an assault involving a patient. Southlake nurses had made repeated requests for extra security from hospital management as they cared for numerous patients who had been identified as being a potential danger to themselves or others in an overcrowded ER; their requests were denied. Southlake management had collected back the nurses' panic buttons - used to summon help - several months earlier. It was in this powder-keg environment that the patient attacked staff.

ONA has noted an escalation of reports of violent incidents from many of its 60,000 front-line registered nurses and allied health professionals and a reluctance by the Ministry of Labour to fully use existing provincial legislation to prevent such attacks. Hospital management also regularly fail to fully comply with provincial legislation, and police rarely use the relevant sections of the Criminal Code in these cases to file charges, and to ONA's knowledge, they certainly have never done so in health care.

ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN says the union will not stand by and allow nurses and allied health professionals to continue to be beaten in the workplace. "There is existing legislation that very clearly lays out the responsibility of employers to take every precaution reasonable to keep workers safe. Combined with dangerously low staffing levels across all sectors of health care, it's a recipe for disaster that we're determined to fix."

ONA fought hard for new workplace violence legislation following the workplace murder of Lori Dupont, RN, yet regularly sees evidence that health care leaders are consciously denying the protections needed to prevent attacks on staff.

York Regional Police declined to lay criminal charges against Southlake for what ONA believes was a wanton disregard for the safety of nurses. Ministry of Labour orders written against the hospital have done nothing to immediately keep nurses safe.

"Now is the time to engage with the provincial government," says Haslam-Stroud. "We simply can't wait for another nurse to be killed on the job before they are protected by the full force of the law."

ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in Ontario hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, industry and clinics.

SOURCE: Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information:

Ontario Nurses' Association
Sheree Bond    Cell: (416) 986-8240;
Melanie Levenson   (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369; 

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