A corrections officer and a police officer were attacked by patients in two separate incidents less than an hour apart on Friday at one of Manitoba's most secure psychiatric care units.
The assaults happened at the locked forensic psychiatry unit at HSC, known as PX3.
Just after 4:30 p.m. on Friday, an on-duty corrections officer was stabbed by a patient with what Winnipeg police described as an "edged weapon."
Less than an hour later, a Winnipeg police officer responding to that incident was attacked by another patient at the facility.
Neither victim suffered serious injuries. The police officer was treated and released from the hospital.
No charges will be laid in either attack and police said they aren't investigating further.
But the head of the Manitoba Nurses Union says the two incidents represent a larger problem.
"These incidents have been going on for quite some time. They are escalating in seriousness. And so yes — something has to be done," said Sandi Mowat, president of the union.
Mowat said since last fall, there's been an increase in violence against nurses at Winnipeg hospitals, with as many as two or three incidents occurring on some days at the Health Sciences Centre.
'When I go to a Jets game I go through a metal detector and get my purse searched. But I can walk into any emergency room in any time of the day and nobody takes a second look at me.' - Manitoba Nurses Union president Sandi Mowat
She said incidents like the ones on Friday raise concerns about workplace safety and security in health-care facilities.
"My question would be, how does a patient end up on a unit with an object that could actually stab a staff member? Why is that happening? How are those objects getting onto the units, a locked unit?" she said.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority told CBC News in an email the authority won't comment on specific incidents involving patients due to its obligations under the Personal Health Information Act.
If a patient in any unit is involved in a violent or aggressive incident — whether or not somebody got hurt — the information is logged in the health authority's reporting system, the spokesperson wrote. The department in question then reviews the incident for any practices or learning opportunities coming out of it, and a regional review may be initiated.
'Easy access' frustrating
Mowat said health-care facilities are dealing with growing numbers of mental-health patients and staffing levels that don't always keep up.
"There's been an attempt to increase the capacity there [at PX3] but some difficulties increasing the staffing for whatever reason," she said. "So you can't increase those types of patients because they require more monitoring and more care. And that's where incidents happen."
She also pointed to ongoing health-care consolidation as a factor increasing patient volumes in emergency departments — an argument the WRHA has dismissed, blaming crowds on the flu, not closures — and said rising meth use puts more pressure on the system.
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"I think we are challenged because of the numbers now and I think we're challenged because we maybe don't have the resources we need, so we all need to work together to make sure that those things are put in place," she said.
She's also concerned nurses are becoming too accepting of threats of violence in the workplace that could be reported and dealt with before somebody gets hurt.
The union has been talking about hospital security for a long time, she said, including a report and public campaign in 2011. She suggested patients coming into secure wards could be searched beforehand for something like an edged weapon.
"I have been so frustrated for so long about the easy access into some of these facilities… no locked doors, people coming and going at all hours. And then, the fact that when I go to a Jets game I go through a metal detector and get my purse searched," she said.
"But I can walk into any emergency room in any time of the day and nobody takes a second look at me."