Coquitlam psychiatric hospital fined $646k over nurse attacks

Feb 2 2019, 7:22 am

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Coquitlam has been handed the largest penalty issued by Worksafe BC in the history of the province.

The fine, coming in at $646,304.88, addresses two separate incidents that took place last spring and comes because “the employer failed to maintain a safe workplace for staff and failed to assess and control the risk of violence at the site.”

Two nurses, who were working in a maximum security unit, were attacked by patients. The incidents took place within 34 days of each other.

According to a media release, the hospital employs more than 200 members of the BC Nurses’ Union. The nurses and psychiatrists who work at the facility work with the most clinically challenging patients in the province.

“They’re at great risk of violence based on how situations can escalate,” explains Christine Sorensen, President of the BCNU. “Patients can become aggressive and become physical.”

The BCNU is pushing for change, and for the hospital to create a safer workplace for the nurses who work there. Although the hospital has agreed to make a number of changes, the improvements are coming at a snail’s pace.

Sorenson explains that in September of 2018, the hospital agreed to make changes to security. Although there are additional officers who have been hired, they have yet to be fully trained or work at full capacity.

Other changes included bringing in more nurses and making changes to their roles to provide better clinical and mental support. The Union believes that the hospital is taking steps in the right direction, but more urgency is needed to protect the nurses that work there.

“The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) must do more to protect their nurses and health care workers,” says Sorenson. “The assaulted nurses remain physically and mentally traumatized. If nurses don’t feel they are safe from physical attacks, they cannot focus their attention effectively on the patients’ needs.”

It’s not the first time that the psychiatric hospital has dealt with violent incidents either. The Coquitlam-based facility has had numerous violent incidents take place, with recent incidents dating back to just last August.

In 2014, the hospital was fined $75,000 for failure to instruct workers exposed to violence, and for the failure to assess and control the risk of violence in the workplace. In 2012, a health-care worker was stabbed by a patient.

The BCNU is currently reviewing the penalty and evaluating alternative options, specifically the ability to invest the funds back into safety and violence prevention solutions.

“Is it in our the best interest of the facility and their employees to withdraw $650,000?” asks Sorenson. “Or, do we redirect that money into a special fund that ensures that improvements are made.

Should another nurse or health care worker be assaulted, the hospital and the PHSA could face even steeper penalties.

“Taxpayer dollars should not be spent on record-making fines,” Sorenson says. “It is of considerable financial interest for the employer to provide a safe working environment for all staff.”

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