Another violent incident at Laval hospital psychiatric ward

·2 min read

Another violent incident in the psychiatric ward at Laval's Cité-de-la-Santé hospital has the union representing staff calling for the health institution to move more quickly to improve security.

"Several times we've said one day there will be a death in psychiatry, with the numbers of assaults that we've had toward workers and patients," Dereck Cyr, vice-president of the union representing nurses (SIIIAL-CSQ), told Radio-Canada.

The latest incident happened Oct. 25.

"A patient attacked another patient, strangling him until he turned blue, with secretions coming out of his mouth," Cyr said.

He said it took three security guards to restrain the violent patient and one orderly to calm him down.

Latest in a series of incidents

In June, 20 psychiatric ward employees at the hospital wrote a letter to managers calling for immediate help to ensure their safety.

In the letter, employees described at least five separate incidents of patients attacking staff — all in the space of one week.

Even before that, in March, Quebec's workplace health and safety board identified several security failings in the ward.

In a follow-up report in September, a board inspector found some changes had been made, but that there was more work to do.

'Obsolete' equipment, poor organization

"The employer's been saying since 2017 they would do renovations, but they're still not finished," Cyr said.

The health and safety board inspection noted the hospital had added panic buttons and two isolation rooms for aggressive patients, but Cyr said other changes are urgently needed.

"The security cameras in the hallways date back to the 1970's. It's all obsolete," Cyr said.

Cyr said another problem is that patients of all ages and ranges of distress are housed together. He said the patient involved in last week's attack weighed more than 300 pounds and was very difficult to restrain.

"He was mixing with people aged from 18 to 100 years old with different diagnoses, which can lead to violence," Cyr said.

Change is coming

In a statement, a spokersperson for the health agency, Marie-Eve Despatie-Gagnon, said security has been improved.

"Since July, three security guards have been present on the units at all times and intervene in all emergency situations," Despatie-Gagnon said.

She added that since August the hospital has added response officers trained to deal with aggressive patients.

Cyr said of the 18 response officers required, only eight positions have been filled.

As for the renovations, Despatie-Gagnon said they are continuing.

"Renovation work worth $2.1 million is planned to enhance the overall security of the units. We are currently in the process of completing the unit layout plan," she said.

The work is scheduled to be completed next year.