The B.C. Nurses union is blaming low staffing levels for a violent attack on a young nurse by a mentally ill patient at a Kamloops heath care facility last week.
 
The union's executive counsellor Margaret Dhillon said the nurse, who is new to the profession, was working alone in a ward at the Hillside Centre at Royal Inland Hospital on Friday when she was attacked.

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The B.C. Nurses Union says nurses at Hillside Centre in Kamloops have asked Interior Health repeatedly for more staff. (Interior Health Authority)

"She was punched in the face, knocked to the ground, it took seven staff members as well as an RCMP officer to get the patient off of her," she said.
 
Dhillon said the minimum staffing number for the unit is three health professionals. Earlier requests for more staff were denied by management, she said.
 
The nurses' union said the patient had been transferred to Royal Inland Hospital from a forensic facility just two weeks before the attack.

"While at forensics, he was required to have four staff members on duty, at least three of them male. After his arrest, the patient’s behaviour was so difficult, staff from the jail requested he be sent back to Hillside," said Dhillon.

"The next day he was returned, once additional staffing was secured," she said.

'Nurses are working short, caring for patients that even the jail can't handle' - Tracy Quewezance, BCNU regional chair

Union regional chair Tracy Quewezance said the Interior Health Authority needs to increase staff levels.
 
“Nurses are working short, caring for patients that even the jail can’t handle. A young nurse has been severely traumatized. She’ll never go back there. It could have been a lot worse,” she said.

The Interior Health Authority said the 47-bed Hillside Centre is a psychiatric centre that deals with clients with complex medical and psychiatric issues.

Interior Health Regional Director for Tertiary Mental Health Sandy da Silva said Hillside Centre was fully staffed on the night of the incident.

The health authority is conducting a full investigation, that will include the level of staffing, said da Silva.

"We will look at what happened, was this an incident that could have be prevented in any way? How could it have been prevented? And then we will move on from there," she said.

Not the first interior attack  

Hillside Centre has a history of being sent violent patients from other institutions. In two separate cases of dementia patients accused of attacking and killing fellow patients, both were sent to Hillside.

This June, 79-year-old Jack Shippobotham sustained injuries from an attack by another patient resulting in a broken hip and nose. He died of those injuries three weeks later.
 
John Furman, a 95-year-old war veteran, is facing charges for allegedly killing his 85-year-old roommate at a residential care home in Vernon, B.C., in August. The crown attorney said Furman has advanced Alzheimer's disease and is undergoing a psychiatric assessment.

with files from the CBC's Brady Strachan