‘We deserve to work in a safe environment’

North Bay Nugget

Violence persists in long-term care facilities

Jason Matheson, second vice-president of CUPE 1974. looks on as Sue Moore, a registered practical nurse in long-term care and president of CUPE Local 3014, discusses a peer-reviewed, investigative study titled Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-Term Care Staff Steph Crosier/Postmedia Network

Staff represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees at long-term care facilities in Ontario continue to report high levels of violence in the workplace.
On Monday the union presented a peer-reviewed, investigative study titled Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-Term Care Staff, as well as a member poll called Violence Against Long-Term Care Staff Poll Results.

Sue Moore, a registered practical nurse in long-term care and president of CUPE Local 3014, explained the violence is at the hands of both patients and their families.
“I am fully aware and clear about violence being a risk to all of us who dedicate ourselves to a career in health care,” Moore said. “However, I do not believe, nor should anyone believe, that violence is part of the job. We deserve to work in a safe environment where our safety is a priority.”
The poll of 1,223 members was conducted in January. Most staff in the facilities are personal support workers, at 54 per cent, while 21 per cent are registered practical nurses and 25 per cent are other support staff.
The poll states that 62 per cent of PSWs and 52 per cent of RPNs experience physical violence on a weekly basis. In addition to high levels of non-physical violence, 63 per cent of respondents experienced sexual harassment at least occasionally and 44 per cent of female staff experience sexual assault at least occasionally.
Moore said verbal complaints to supervisors are often not listened to as the violence is often seen as part of the job. On Monday, Moore spoke of harassment she experienced from one patient’s family.
“My supervisors had minimized all of my concerns that I had experienced verbally and, perhaps worst, that I, too, had minimized my feelings,” Moore said. “I had never submitted the harassment in writing in the form of an incident report, so there was no requirement for anyone to do a formal followup.
“I am sharing this to reinforce the importance of submitting in writing to all health-care workers because when I finally took my concerns to the highest level, I was advised that there had been never been any concerns submitted in writing about this family.”
Canadian researchers James Brophy and Margaret Keith were on hand to present their Breaking Point study, which was funded by CUPE.

They also are the co-authors of Assaulted and Unheard, a study of violence against health-care workers in general. The pair visited long-term care staff in seven Ontario communities for their most recent study.

The researchers found that the best way to decrease violence in long-term care facilities would be to increase staffing numbers.
The Ontario Health Coalition released in January its report — Situation Critical: Planning, Access, Levels of Care and Violence in Ontario’s Long-Term Care — on publicly funded residences. It, too, found a high level of violence in the facilities, including resident-on-resident violence that staff are often stuck in the middle of.
“Being a nurse is one of the most important and incredible things in my life, and I have chosen to dedicate it to our elderly population who are so incredibly deserving,” Moore said. “It is time that we make a commitment to change and to move forward working together to ensure the safety of all health-care workers as the effects of violence are long lasting.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care did not respond to Postmedia in time for publication.

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