Plea delayed for man accused of assaulting Moncton nurse

A man charged with assault causing bodily harm to a nurse at a hospital in Moncton earlier this year will return to court later this month to enter a plea.

Randy Van Horlick faces a single charge of assault causing bodily harm to a nurse at the Dr.-Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre on March 11.

The 69-year-old Acadieville man made a court appearance Tuesday morning in Moncton to enter a plea. However, the case was adjourned until July 30 for the defence to review evidence disclosed recently by the Crown.

Asked by a reporter outside court if he'd take the case to trial, Van Horlick said "wait and see."

Natasha Poirier previously told CBC she was in her office in the hospital's surgical unit when the husband of a patient she didn't know entered and demanded his wife be moved to a different room.

She said the man pulled her hair, grabbed her wrist and shook her arm, bent her fingers back and hit her head. 

Shane Magee/CBC

She briefly lost consciousness and said she thought she was going to die. She said the alleged attack lasted about 14 minutes before other health-care workers were able to intervene.

Poirier wasn't in court Tuesday, though her mother, Norma Melanson, and several nurses were.

Melanson, a former nurse, said she's not sure whether her daughter will be able to fully return to work.

Tori Weldon/CBC

"What I find the sad part is that she's a brilliant promising young lady as a nurse and she's a thousand times better than I was as a nurse, and I can't perceive that all this present potential is being destroyed," Melanson said outside the courthouse. "I try — we try — to encourage her, but it's going to be a long process."

Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, was among those in the public gallery as Van Horlick appeared in court. 

Doucet told reporters that nurses are going to work unsure if they will be safe during their shifts.  

Shane Magee/CBC

Documents released by the union show there were more than 2,000 code whites at New Brunswick hospitals last year, almost double the number five years ago. Code whites are triggered when a health-care worker is under attackm and all available security is called to that unit. 

"Not everything is as dire as what's happened here in March," Doucet said. "But nurses are facing violent episodes — maybe not to this degree, but they are facing violent episodes every day and every shift."