B.C.'s Minister for Children and Families Stephanie Cadieux has admitted safety protocols at a forensic unit at the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre in Burnaby, B.C., are not good enough to keep nurses safe and has promised upgrades.
A CBC investigation uncovered safety violations at a centre for mentally ill youth, where staff said there are no panic alarms or safety measures to protect them from young patients, some of whom are extremely violent.
"There are panic alarms that were being used and we've agreed all staff should have those, and they will be in place by Tuesday," said Cadieux.
"I still don't feel that is adequate."
The Crossroads Unit at the Maples Centre houses youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who are found either unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible for violent acts.
Staff, WorkSafe B.C. statement contradicts Cadieux
"We have no alarm system," said psychiatric nurse Jewels Bainbridge, who was attacked by a youth two years ago.
Twenty-five workers were assaulted in 2013 at the Crossroads Unit.
"If violence breaks out you have to get to a telephone, you have to protect yourself and sometimes the phone is behind a locked door," she said.
Bainbridge said the only mechanism with which workers can call for help are walkie-talkies, which WorkSafe B.C. call "deficient," because batteries die, the radios don't work in all of the units and often youth will steal them.
WorkSafe B.C. inspection reports, the most recent of which was dated last week, repeatedly refer to the lack of personal panic devices for nurses.
A key chain that makes noise
The panic alarms Cadieux says are available to staff do not track nurses' locations nor do they send a call for help when the panic button is pushed.
Workers said several of the alarms, which resemble noise-making keychains, were issued two years ago but broke within a matter of days.
NDP member of the legislative assembly Carole James said workers cannot be kept safe when all they are carrying is a keychain.
"It really is unbelievable to see the lack of accountability," she said.
"This is a dangerous work site."
Cadieux said she is now exploring options to improve safety for workers at the Maples centre. She told CBC none of the workers who spoke out would be fired for speaking to the CBC.