'The sobering reality is that hospitals are increasingly toxic and dangerous workplaces'
The Health Sciences North (HSN) hospital in Sudbury, ON, has hired 22 dedicated security guards amid the increasing violence against healthcare workers.
The hospital has also invested $1.1 million to establish a Behavioural Escalation Support Team to support staff and follow up on cases of violence in the workplace, reported CBC. The support team is expected to be fully operational by 2023,
"It goes without saying that any workplace violence incident is one too many, and HSN's ultimate goal is zero harm in the workplace," said Jason Turnbull, hospital spokesperson, in the CBC report.
Ontario healthcare employers must do a better job protecting their frontline workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, based on events that happened in November 2021. But this has only gotten worse, according to reports from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of healthcare workers experienced physical violence, based on the union's survey of 2,300 front-line registered practical nurses (RPNs), personal support workers (PSWs), porters, cleaners and other front-line hospital staff, conducted May 17 to 24, 2022.
And 53 per cent reported an increase in violence targeting them or a co-worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than seven in 10 (71 per cent) of racialized workers reported they are subject to harassment or abuse because of their race or appearance. Meanwhile, 49 per cent of all hospital workers in the survey experienced sexual harassment and 36 per cent experienced sexual assault.
Nearly one in five (18 per cent) reported an increase in the use of guns or knives against staff.
“The grimmest of all projections is that 88,920 hospital staff would be sexually assaulted in the workplace,” said Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE). “The sobering reality is that hospitals are increasingly toxic and dangerous workplaces where women are beaten, sexually assaulted, and racially attacked by the hundreds every single day.”
In Hamilton, 33 per cent of the registered practical nurses (RPNs), cleaners, clerical and other staff identified as racialized, and 75 per cent of them reported that they are subject to harassment or abuse because of their race or appearance.
Nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) of all categories of Hamilton hospital workers experienced sexual harassment and 39 per cent experienced sexual assault, based on the union’s survey of more than 500 Hamilton area hospital staff, conducted May 17 to 24, 2022.
Also, 64 per cent of Hamilton respondents experienced physical violence and 53 per cent have witnessed an increase in violent incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixteen per cent reported an increase in the use of guns or knives against staff.
This only adds to the grim picture that the healthcare system is already: Nine per cent of doctors have had suicidal thoughts but have never attempted to take their own life while about one per cent have attempted suicide, according to a report from Medscape released in May. Also, during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, when 75 per cent of Canadian nurses were classified as burnt out, according to the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
There is a level of violence going on that the Premier, health minister and the hospitals can no longer ignore,” said Richer. “They must act to stop this.”