Assaults on hospital staff increasing across Ontario as Staff, bed and service cuts frustrate patients and their families

TORONTO, July 6, 2015 /CNW/ - The rise in occurrences of violence against hospital staff documented in a University Health Network report are representative of a wave of aggression in hospitals, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) says.

"Aggression is commonplace, with staff spit on, scratched, punched, kicked, pushed and choked daily across Ontario. Despite all of the zero tolerance for aggression policies, the predominantly female hospital workforce bears the brunt of patient and family members' hostility with appalling regularity. Staff are at increasing risk of psychological scarring and physical harm," says Sharon Richer, vice-president of OCHU responsible for health and safety.

A patient recently beat a hospital staff member represented by CUPE unconscious, with a lead pipe. A staff person in another community was disfigured in an attack.

"Hospital staff are constantly at the receiving end of anger from frustrated family members about access to care or timely care and vulnerable to patients with mental health and cognitive impairment issues who require much more attention than we are able to give them," says Michael Hurley, president of OCHU. "The vulnerability of hospital staff can be directly tracked to provincial cuts that have slashed staffing and reduced the availability of beds and services, particularly in mental health."

Significant cuts to staffing and beds and services are well documented and affect most Ontario hospitals. Ontario operates its hospitals with the fewest beds and staff of any province. As part of its 5-year funding freeze for hospitals, the province is cutting services, including in mental health. 

OCHU, which represents 30,000 hospital workers, plans a conference on violence in Ontario's hospitals in 2016.

"Hospital staff have reached their physical and psychological limits dealing with providing quality care in a time of radically shrinking resources. Increased staffing is what is needed," Hurley says. 

SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

For further information: Sharon Richer: 705-280-0911; Michael Hurley: 416-884-0770


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