ER staff need more protection from violence and abuse, health-care workers say

·2 min read
A recent survey by the P.E.I. Nurses' union indicates 53 per cent of its members have experienced violence in the workplace. (Getty Images - image credit)
A recent survey by the P.E.I. Nurses' union indicates 53 per cent of its members have experienced violence in the workplace. (Getty Images - image credit)

Violence against health-care workers on P.E.I. has become so prevalent on P.E.I. that a Liberal MLA is asking the province to improve security at hospitals so doctors and nurses can do their jobs.

Gord McNeilly said staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital emergency department have told him they don't feel safe.

"They're being threatened, there's been physical incidents that are happening," he said. "Security and safety has to be paramount first so they can do the jobs that they're hired to do."

Allison Wyatt of Health P.E.I. said it's a problem across Canada.

"It could be physical, it could be verbal, and we're trying to do our best to equip the staff with how to handle those type of scenarios."

A federal law was passed and took effect Jan. 16 to protect health workers and patients from threats, violence and harassment.

But the Medical Society of P.E.I. said as the province navigates its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, health-care workers are "seeing a stressed, exhausted and frustrated society."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"We know patients are worried and they deserve timely health care," the society said in an email statement to CBC News.

"At the same time, it's important to remember that behind every mask is not only a health care worker, but a human being, who shows up every day to provide the best care possible to you. They deserve to work in a place where they feel safe."

Security and staff need to work together, Wyatt said.

It's important to remember that behind every mask is not only a health care worker, but a human being. — Medical Society of P.E.I.

"Hopefully you get to a point of de-escalation before you ever get to any hands-on scenario, but if you do get to a hands-on scenario, then everyone needs to be of a common understanding as to how that's going to go."

A risk assessment done last year recommended additional security coverage may be needed at the ER at the QEH.

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union (PEINU) has been raising the issue of violence by patients for years. They are also calling for more security who are trained to intervene in potentially violent situations.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

In a recent survey, 53 per cent of PEINU members indicated that they have been a victim of violence in the workplace. Of those members, 93 per cent indicated that patients were a source of the violence, and 44 per cent indicated that families of patients were a source of the violence.

"The level of concern is critical," said PEINU vice-president Joanne Chisholm.

"Nurses should not be wondering if today is the day that they will be verbally or physically abused at work. On top of the mental and physical injuries that nurses may have to deal with, that stress contributes to burn-out and turn-over."

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