Nurses' Association 'outraged' by hospital fine for assault of two staff members

The president of the Ontario Nurses' Association is 'outraged' by an $80,000 fine levied against Southlake Regional Health Centre after the assault of two staff members by a patient in 2019.

"These kinds of decisions make health care workers and registered nurses feel like they're expendable, that their lives are not important," Vicki McKenna said Saturday.

For McKenna, the fine's dollar value is insufficient, though she does not offer a more appropriate sum. ONA had hoped the Ministry of Labour would make an example of the Newmarket hospital after the serious injury of a nurse and security guard.

"It didn't feel weighty enough, it wasn't heavy enough to really be a deterrent but also to incite and teach a lesson to this employer but other employers to say this is serious. When workers are injured, this is serious stuff."

The ministry says Southlake plead guilty to two violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in connection with the January 2019 violence.

Two employees tried to re-enter the nursing station in Southlake's emergency psychiatric assessment area after delivering food to a patient.

Another patient admitted earlier that day, who had been flagged as a moderate violence risk and had been exhibiting "escalating" behaviours, struck both staffers as they were trying to get back into the station.

The ministry says Southlake violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to provide a way for those inside the nursing station to communicate with those outside without opening a door.

The ministry says it was also a violation of the act not to have procedures to safely enter or leave the nursing station when a violent patient is in the common area.

In a statement Friday, Southlake President and CEO Arden Krystal called the safety of everyone who works at and receives care at the hospital a "top priority."

Krystal says the hospital has taken steps like increasing security guard coverage, training staff on violence prevention, and opening the emergent mental health assessment unit.

McKenna says the nurse injured is struggling with "life-changing" physical and psychological effects from the attack. She is undergoing therapy and treatment while trying to return to work a few hours a week.

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