The hazards faced by Ontario’s nurses and personal support workers, including musculoskeletal disorders from client handling and disease exposures, make health-care sector injuries the second highest in the province. In a letter to the Minister of Labour yesterday, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OHCU) again addressed one of the hazards too many healthcare workers face daily – the threat of workplace violence. Citing stark evidence from their own members and new OHCU-commissioned research from a study led by occupational health experts Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith, the Council holds the government responsible for the failure of the regulatory system to adequately safeguard the province’s healthcare workers (a primarily female occupation) from abuse, assault and sexual harassment. In its response, the Ministry spokesperson announced that a progress report on an ongoing initiative to make hospitals safer should be released in the next few weeks.
As highlighted in the 2015 TV documentary “Code White” based on a joint Global 16×9 and Toronto Star investigation into violence against nurses, since the 2010 (Bill 168) amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety few charges have been laid by the Ministry against hospital administrators for failing to protect their staff. Also discussed – why the statistics on violence are in fact considerably understated and the reasons for not reporting incidents – including fear of retaliation and losing one’s job, complex reporting procedures and lack of time, or the belief that nothing will change.
Besides calling for whistleblower protection and more rigorous Ministry enforcement of compliance with Bill 168 regulations , the OHCU’s letter recommends a public review “of how the WSIB is currently adjudicating and assisting health care staff suffering from violent incidents at work and that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) be recognized by the WSIB and extended to all healthcare staff adversely affected directly or indirectly by violence experienced in the course of their work.”
Yesterday’s Star article profiles the case of North Bay nurse, Dianne Paulin, still suffering and unable to work following a brutal workplace assault in 2011 that left her with neck injuries and PTSD. Her workers’ compensation benefits were cut in half in 2015, she says, when – against the advice of her psychiatrist – the WSIB told her she was able to return to work….
(presumptive PTSD coverage currently applies to paramedics as first responders but excludes nurses (and other healthcare workers) who experience repeated exposure to trauma and face significant amounts of workplace violence).
- Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE. 2017 Mar. [Letter to the Minister] re: Violence Against Staff in Ontario’s Healthcare Sector. Toronto: OCHU
- Ontario Nurses Association. 2016 Oct. Workplace Violence and Harassment: A Guide. Toronto: ONA
- Ontario. Ministry of Labour. 2016 Sep. Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment. (resources)
- Cribb, Robert & Krysia Collyer. 2015 Oct. 31. “Workplace Violence Makes Nursing One of Canada’s Most Dangerous professions.” Toronto Star
- Banerjee, Albert et al. 2008 Feb. “Out of Control”: Violence against Personal Support Workers in Long-Term Care. Toronto: York University
- Workers Health and Safety Centre. Resource Lines: Workplace Violence: Preventable and Predictable.