WE ALL HAVE A ROLE IN REDUCING VIOLENCE IN HEALTHCARE
HENRIETTA VAN HULLE Executive Director, Health & Community Services Public Services Health & Safety Association
Throughout the country, violent incidents against healthcare workers are escalating in frequency and severity. Frontline healthcare workers provide essential services in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long term care and home and community care settings, and include nurses, doctors, personal support workers, administrative staff and dietary aides. Increasingly, these workers are reporting being punched, kicked, stabbed and threatened on the job.
The rise in incidents can be attributed to an aging population and increasing rates of dementia, among other reasons.
Oftentimes, victims describe violent events as daily occurrences, some so serious in nature that they result in time off work and can cause physical or psychological issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Healthcare and social services represent approximately 13% of Canada’s total labour market. In 2015, healthcare received 19% of the total national injury claims – more than any other industry in Canada. In Ontario alone, violent-related incidents made up 10% of all lost-time injury claims in hospitals in 2015. In one Saskatchewan region, violent incidents almost doubled from 224 in the first two quarters of 2015-16 up to 416 over the same period just one year later. In New Brunswick, 66% of nurses reported experiencing physical or verbal abuse over a one-year period in 2016.
As alarming as these figures are, the reality is likely even more shocking as violent incidents have been found to be severely underreported, attributed to the belief within the sector that it’s “simply part of the job”.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour reports that violentrelated incidents cost Ontario healthcare institutions over $23 million in 2015; a significant sum which can likely be invested elsewhere to improve patient treatment and care.
Safer healthcare workers mean better care.
As patients and family members, we all have a role to play. Our healthcare system’s greatest asset are the committed, skilled and compassionate individuals that dedicate their careers to the care of others. Our ongoing collaboration and mutual respect is necessary in order to keep them safe at work and doing what they do best.