Blog Post #825 – Hospital Patient Assaults Nurses in New Brunswick

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

The New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) is calling for action against continued violence against workers in the healthcare sector, following an incident at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

On January 13, 2014, a patient assaulted several employees of the facility during an altercation in the hospital’s neuro-intensive care unit. Three registered nurses required treatment in the emergency room following the attack.

The incident triggered a public response from the NBNU, which had already confronted Horizon Health – the organization that runs the hospital – about violence and security issues in the past. “It has been a bit of an ongoing issue at the Saint John Regional Hospital in particular,” says NBNU president Marilyn Quinn. “We’ve had concerns around their protocols and policies in terms of their response teams, the education for the people on it, the debriefings, all sorts of things.”

Quinn stresses that violence against nurses is a problem that has been underreported and has not been taken seriously. More than 30% of registered nurses in New Brunswick have suffered physical abuse at work, and nearly 42% have undergone emotional abuse, Statistics Canada reports.

“What we are trying to alert nurses to is that this behaviour is unacceptable. Employers have an onus to provide a safe environment, not just for the patients we care for, but also for the staff that looks after them.,” says Quinn, adding that the blame for incidents should not be placed on nurses. “This isn’t caused because somebody didn’t talk to somebody nicely.”

A source with Horizon says it is planning a post-analysis to review the hospital’s security procedures and processes.

Quinn adds that she plans to meet with the senior executive of Horizon to enquire about the incident. The NBNU wants to know whether the hospital was following proper safety policies, why the police were not called, whether the injured nurses had the opportunity to press charges and if the patient had been screened properly for potential risk.

At present, New Brunswick and Quebec are the only provinces that do not have any specific legislation relating to workplace violence.

My opinion

Wow, the last line really hit home with me. June or July 2010 was the timeframe for the section 32.0.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which covers violence and harassment in the Ontario workplace. I am really surprised to see that both Quebec and New Brunswick were late coming to the dance. Even so, I was really surprised that the province of Quebec was not leading the way as they are on many other safety concerns.

Nurses should never be placed at risk to harm if risk assessments are completed beforehand. It would certainly go a long way in better protecting them, that is for sure.

Do you ever notice that changes to legislation usually never happen until someone has been in an incident/accident? Too bad as well. Pro-activity would be nice right about now, wouldn’t it?

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Violence and Harassment’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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