Alleging several cases of violent assault in the past month, 20 psychiatric ward employees at the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval are calling for immediate help to ensure their safety.
In an internal letter obtained by Radio-Canada, employees describe at least five separate "attacks" by patients that occurred one week in mid-June.
The letter is several pages long and describes some of the alleged assaults in detail. One employee said they received "several sneaky blows to the face" from a patient who had allegedly been uttering death threats to staff since last month.
"Patients had to physically intervene to come to the help of the attendant," hospital staff wrote in the letter. They are calling for that patient to be transferred to the Philippe-Pinel Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Montreal's east end.
In another incident, a patient care attendant describes being hit twice in two days. "Myself and another attendant, we were screaming," the attendant describes in the letter.
"I wasn't able to reach my panic button and that of my colleague had fallen on the floor."
Déreck Cyr, vice president of the union representing nurses and attendants at the hospital (SIIIAL-CSQ), said intervention workers were supposed to be hired and placed in the hospital months ago.
"Intervention agents have the ability to physically intervene with patients and can bring them to a restraint room if necessary," Cyr said.
According to Cyr, the regional health board agreed to have intervention workers in place by September 2019, and then postponed that to April 2020. When the pandemic hit, that plan got pushed even further to the end of August.
Judith Goudreau, a spokesperson for the CISSS de Laval, said the regional health board is following the situation closely.
"We consider the events reported to be troubling. They deserve our immediate attention and actions are already being taken," Goudreau said in a statement to Radio-Canada.
The psychiatric ward of the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital currently holds 50 patients.
Workplace health and safety board records gaps in system
Records show that the province's workplace health and safety board, the CNESST, has been following the situation at Cité-de-la-Santé since March.
In an intervention report filed on March 11, the CNESST observed gaps in the hospital's safety protocols.
More specifically, it noted "the presence of gaps in the application of code white."
A code white is triggered when a staff member calls for immediate help in an emergency situation.
During a followup in June, a CNESST inspector noted progress following the recommendations of the March 11 report, but noted a "rate of progress of 20 per cent" in establishing a team of intervention agents, as well as a "20 per cent completion rate" of renovation work to enhance the safety of all psychiatric units.