Top News

NS nurses union ‘thrilled’ with plan on workplace safety

Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union: ‘It used to be five, 10 years ago . . . if we tried to report (violence), that’s what we were told — it’s part of your job. That’s not the reaction that this employer has anymore and that’s fantastic.’
ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union: ‘It used to be five, 10 years ago . . . if we tried to report (violence), that’s what we were told — it’s part of your job. That’s not the reaction that this employer has anymore and that’s fantastic.’ ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD - The Chronicle Herald

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union is happy with the progress being made toward reducing violence against health-care workers.

“Two years ago when we started working on this there was not a lot of policies in place,” said union president Janet Hazelton at a news conference Thursday with a representative of the Nova Scotia Health Authority after a progress report was released.

“Every facility reacted to a violent incident differently. . . . Some had risk assessments done, some didn’t. . . . It was a mess in other words. Most of that has been resolved.”

Hazelton said she was “thrilled with the response that this employer has taken on the seriousness of this issue.”

She singled out the fact that violence risk assessments and plans have been created for all 25 emergency departments across the province. As well, staff in higher-risk environments have been given communication devices they can use to alert coworkers that they’re in trouble.

The progress report, called Improving Workplace Safety in Nova Scotia’s Community Emergency Departments, comes out of a task force struck in 2016 in the wake of an incident in which a man brought a rifle into the emergency room of a Middleton hospital.

While such weapons incidents are rare, Hazelton said, physical violence such as hitting and pushing regularly occurs, and there have been more extreme acts such as patients smashing a nurse’s head against the wall.

There were 872 formal reports of violence in NSHA facilities from January to December 2017. The nurses union said the number doesn’t reflect the true number of incidents because most still go unreported.

Hazelton said the report emphasizes that staff are legally obligated to report all incidents.

“It used to be five, 10 years ago, that was just part of my job. I worked in emerg, you get hit, well that’s it. And if we tried to report it, that’s what we were told — it’s part of your job. That’s not the reaction that this employer has anymore and that’s fantastic.”

She also had a warning for people who think they have the right to push health-care staff around.

“Everybody knows it’s not OK to hit a policeman, and they know there’s very severe consequences if we do. We need to get that culture in Nova Scotia and across this country when it comes to health-care workers. It’s not OK.”

Carmelle d’Entrement, the NSHA’s vice-president of people and organizational development, who joined Hazelton at the news conference Thursday, said committees made up of authority staff and union representatives have been working for the past year on implementing the 12 recommendations from the task force.

“There’s one that’s outstanding. The others have already been met or had significant progress so we’re quite pleased with the progress we’ve made,” d’Entremont said.

“The outstanding one has to do with information technology systems. It’s a more complex piece of work. We’re a very largeemployer, we have three different systems andinvesting in a new business solution addressing functionality, that’s a whole processso that’s a piece of work that hasn’t been finalized.”

D’Entremont also acknowledged that concerns remain about the number of security officers in emergency rooms and long-term-care facilities.

“We’ve done security assessments that don’t talk about levels of security, that really talk about the environment . . . making sure that things are bolted to the floor, those types of things. But we also have a next phase at work which is really looking at those security levels.”

Work is also still in progress on implementing an authority-wide system that will red flag potentially violent patients. That patient alert system will be piloted in emergency departments beginning this spring.

Recent Stories