A doctor at B.C.'s Penticton Regional Hospital was "savagely assaulted" by a patient on Friday, according to RCMP and the B.C. Nurses' Union.

Police were called to the Penticton Hospital at 4:22 p.m. PT because a patient in the psychiatric unit was causing problems, said Penticton RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur.

"It's not a common thing for us … not something as horrific as this where a staff member is violently assaulted, as they have been in this case," he said.

Penticton hospital

Penticton Regional Hospital is run by B.C.'s Interior Health Authority. (Interior Health Authority)

Gregory Stanley Nield, 30, has been charged with aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm, according to court records.

Nield is from Summerland, B.C., and won medals at the Western Canadian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships in 2012 and 2013.

He remains in custody and a psychiatric assessment has been recommended, said Dellebuur.

The doctor is recovering in Kelowna Hospital with severe facial injuries, a broken jaw and other fractures, according to police.

'Routine' doctor-patient interview turned violent

The doctor and patient were alone for a routine interview when the incident happened, according to the Interior Health Authority.

Nurses on the floor learned something was wrong when the patient walked out of the room.

"The patient calmly walked out of a closed-door session and announced the doctor might be dead," said B.C. Nurses' Union president Gayle Duteil.

BC Nurses Union

B.C. Nurses' Union president Gayle Duteil is calling on the B.C. Health Ministry to provide greater security for health-care workers. (CBC)

Duteil said the doctor had been "savagely assaulted," but provided no more details about what happened in the room.

"The doctor is lucky to be alive," she said.

Both a "code white" — relating to a violent patient — and a "code blue" for the injured physician were called, said the health authority CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny. The doctor received help immediately, he said.

"I visited [the doctor] in hospital yesterday and he's doing as well as can be expected," said Dr. Halpenny.

The Interior Health Authority will be reviewing the incident with the RCMP and WorkSafe BC, which may take months, he said.

Nurses call for personal alarms, greater security

Health-care workers in B.C. have "inadequate protection" against violent patients, said Duteil.

"Does someone have to die before the health authority starts providing basic safety measures, such as personal alarms?" she said.

The nurses' union is calling on health authorities to immediately provide:

  • Personal alarms for staff.
  • Security personnel assigned directly to psychiatric units, rather than "a walk through."
  • Security cameras.
  • Assurances this patient will not be returned to the psychiatric unit at Penticton Hospital.

The Interior Health Authority said it was already in the process of installing personal alarms at Penticton Hospital before the incident. Halpenny did not think they would have made a difference in this case.

A CBC investigation earlier this year found incidents involving violent or potentially violent patients known as "code whites" happen at least 10 times a day in B.C.'s hospitals.

With files from Brady Strachan, Eric Rankin and Yvette Brend