(WINDSOR, ON) – Workers in the province’s hospitals are often the targets of thrown items or outright physical attacks. Because of this, hospital direct care providers, like nurses and personal support workers, are said to be at great risk of physical violence in the workplace.
A new poll of Ontario hospital staff finds that sixty-eight per cent of registered practical nurses and personal support workers have reported experiencing at least one incident of physical violence in the hospital in the last year. Acts included punching, hitting, or having things thrown at them.
Nearly 20 per cent of respondents said they’ve been physically assaulted nine times or more in the last year.
The poll was conducted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees through its hospital division, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. In total 1,976 members working in hospitals in seven Ontario communities were polled. Results were released yesterday at Queen’s Park by OCHU president Michael Hurley.
Hurley was joined by assault victim Scott Sharp. The personal support worker was thrown through a wall by a very disturbed patient at a Guelph hospital and is, over two years later, struggling to recover and return to work.
“The level of physical violence that I experienced and that so many other hospital staff experience every day, scars the body and it scars the soul,” said Sharp. “Not enough is being done by the hospitals to create a culture where violent behaviour is simply not tolerated. Instead, the victims of violence are, to a large extent, simply swept under the carpet.”
CUPE is concerned about a finding showing that 42 per cent of nurses and PSWs have experienced sexual harassment or assault at least once last year.
“Hospital management is scandalously complacent about an environment where their largely female staff are frequently hit and sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. Managers see this as just part of our jobs,” Hurley said. “One staff member, who was sexually assaulted, was told by her supervisor that the patient must have been sexually frustrated. People working in healthcare should have the same rights not to be physically or sexually assaulted or harassed as any other person.”
The Ontario results show that 48 per cent of RPNs and PSWs do not agree that their employer protects them and their co-workers effectively from violence.
“Ontario hospitals should be leaders in workplace violence prevention,” said Hurley. “The reality, regrettably, is the opposite.”
Even hospital staff in other support occupations experience violence. Twenty-four per cent of those polled said that they’ve been pushed, hit, or had things thrown at them at least once in the past year.
CUPE and its hospital division is calling on the federal and provincial governments for legislative and legal changes to protect health care staff.