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.

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