Security call for forensic nurses after two struck by patients

The BC Nurses Union (BCNU) is calling for more security at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam after two nurses were assaulted while on the job.

In the first incident, a nurse was sucker punched and suffered head injuries; in the second, a nurse was working in the maximum-security unit when the attack happened. She was treated by a physician on the unit and sent to hospital with severe facial injuries.

Both are recovering from the trauma and physical injuries they sustained when violently hit by patients.

The assaults occurred Aug. 5 and Aug. 13, according to the union, just a few weeks after an international expert panel completed a safety review of the hospital.

The union is asking for the release of the report and details about a follow-up action plan.

“We raised these same concerns when the Ministry [of Health] identified this as an unsafe place,” said union president Christine Sorensen.

The facility which treats adults with mental health issues who are in conflict with the law, is also in need of renovations, Sorensen said, as well as other measures to keep nurses safe.

“It’s a high-risk environment,” she said.

A spokesperson from the hospital agreed that the attacks are troubling and Connie Coniglio, chief operating officer, complex mental health and substance use services, said in a statement to The Tri-City News that a review of the incidents will be undertaken to prevent them from happening again.

“It’s always troubling when one of our own is hurt,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to the challenges and trauma our patients have faced, they can be prone to disruptive behaviour.”

Sorensen said the nurses union has worked with the Provincial Health Services Authority to come up with a plan to make the job site safer but little change has occurred.

She suggested security personnel should be in the rooms where nurses are working to prevent or stop attacks.

Meanwhile, Coniglio said efforts are being made to increase staff safety and security, including implementing violence-prevention training, increasing staffing, conducting an external review that includes an action plan as well as make improvements to the facility improvements and changes to procedures.

In an interview, Coniglio said advanced training in relational security will be provided to staff to help them identify problems before they occur, such as recognizing patient mix, knowing triggers and patient dyamics. The method has been introduced in similar environments in the UK to great success, she said, while improvements to procedures for entering and leaving seclusion rooms will also be implemented to increase staff safety.

As well, lighting, alarms and fencing have also been upgraded, as well as improvements to the secure rooms themselves.

“It’s not about the facility solely, it’s about how we provide intervention,” Coniglio said. “This is about providing the staff with the skills and knowledge to help staff work in a highly-complex environment.”

There are no plans to install security personnel in the rooms, however, and monitoring by video is standard in similar facilities.

Coniglio said putting security guards in rooms will onlly inflame the situation, explaining that they could increase patient anxiety and even provoke incidents.

Instead, the hospital will focus on therapeutic and relational security work, she said, while the results of a review by international experts sought by the union will be provided to union leadership likely in the fall.

As many as 200 BCNU members work at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, plus allied workers and physicians, while the patient count at the forensic psychiatric hospital is 190 individuals.


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