BC Nurses Union is speaking out after Terrace nurses witnessed an agitated patient beat and bite a female security guard at Mills Memorial Hospital. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

BC Nurses Union is speaking out after Terrace nurses witnessed an agitated patient beat and bite a female security guard at Mills Memorial Hospital. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

Security guard bitten, punched by patient at Terrace hospital

Violent incident one of many in Northwest B.C., nurses union says

The BC Nurses Union (BCNU) is calling for more protection of hospital staff following the assault of a female security guard at Mills Memorial Hospital.

Christine Sorensen, president of BCNU, confirmed that nurses at the Terrace hospital witnessed an agitated patient beat and bite a female security guard two weeks ago and that it is just one more example of the violence that nurses and hospital staff face, especially at small hospitals in rural Northwest B.C.

One Northern Health nurse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said violence against hospital staff is a widespread issue that affects employees from Haida Gwaii to Prince George and it is time the public was made aware.

“In reality these nurses are afraid to go to work,” Sorensen said. “It’s a very sad state of affairs for health care and the government needs to address it.”

A Code White, a coordinated response to a potentially out-of-control or violent person, was called when a patient in the psychological unit of the hospital began acting out toward staff at Mills Memorial.

READ MORE: Allegedly intoxicated man arrested after 3 paramedics attacked at Kamloops hospital

In response to the Code White, a security guard intervened but the situation escalated violently. The guard is still recovering and has not yet reported back to work, the nurse said.

“It’s extremely traumatic physically but [there is] also psychological trauma, so I would not be surprised if [the female security guard] has not returned to work,” Sorensen said.

Prince George, Terrace and Quesnel are the only hospitals in Northwest B.C. with security because they were identified by BCNU and the province as being the most at-risk hospitals due to their psychological units.

However, Sorensen said all hospitals face issues of violence on a daily basis and they do not have adequate protection.

“One nurse everyday [across the province] is reported with serious injury related to violence,” Sorensen said, referring to WCB statistics compiled in 2015.

The situation is intensified for smaller hospitals in rural cities because they deal with more complex patients with less support, leaving nursing staff in greater danger, Sorensen added.

The number of incidents of violence against nurses and staff have been increasing, which Sorensen attributes to an aging population, a lack of services and a shortage of nurses which translates into longer wait times and increased patient agitation.

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins wrote in an email to Black Press, while the health authority cannot comment on specific incidents involving patients or staff out of privacy concerns, they are “committed to strengthening a culture of safety and reducing the potential for workplace violence.”

Collins said all Northern Health locations assess the potential for violence in the workplace and implement a violence prevention program to improve workplace security. This includes violence risk assessments, incident reporting and investigation, various policies and guidelines, a provincial violence prevention curriculum, and education on occupational health and safety for supervisors and managers.

“We also have a standardized Code White response protocols that are used to defuse potentially dangerous situations and help protect staff, patients and bystanders,” Collins wrote.

Sites without any contracted, on-site security services do have security measures in place, from security cameras and access restrictions at appropriate times, to response from local RCMP when their presence is required, Collins said.

READ MORE: 2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

However, Sorensen said, even sites with security guards are not well-equipped to deal with out-of-control patients because they are not trained in conflict resolution or therapeutic relationship skills. Nurses do receive this training, however, with shortages of staff, it is becoming increasingly difficult to handle.

“They went into nursing for medical care not conflict resolution,” Sorensen said.

Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) have hired trained safety officers for one-on-one assistance for potentially violent patients, but Northern Health has yet to do so.

Northern Health is responsible for hiring the security company who protects hospital staff under their jurisdiction.

Sorensen said some nurses, who suffer violence, may have difficulty accessing long-term leave for medical disability due to a lack of resources and that nurses who witness violence may also have trouble finding a trained individuals to help them resolve their PTSD.

However, Collins said psychological supports and resources for nurses who witnessed the assault are available 24/7 to work with them and their families, and physicians who are experiencing stressors, to assist with coping after a workplace incident.

“Northern Health also promotes and encourages staff to access the available supports and services through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP),” she said.

Although Sorensen said she would like to see trained safety officers in all Northwest B.C. hospitals 24/7 to assist with difficult patients.

“We shouldn’t be focusing on how much it costs but on patient care,” she said.


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Angelique Houlihan gets her COVID-19 vaccine jab last week at the community-wide clinic. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
Vaccine clinic continues this week

Plenty of booking spots available

District of Houston
Council adds flexibility to spending decisions

Singles out road works as potential beneficiary

Filling potholes in Houston
Holes filled on Highway 16

Potholes aren’t restricted to District of Houston streets. Lakes District Maintenance crews… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read