Jim MacLean said the hospital will review its policy. ((CBC))

There are concerns over the safety of staff at the East Coast Forensic Psychiatric Hospital after two nurses were assaulted earlier this week by a patient outside the facility.

The two female nurses suffered minor injuries when a male patient assaulted them while they were taking him to a medical appointment in a taxi. The female cabbie was also assaulted

The hospital said the man is a long-term patient, which means a court would have committed him after he was either found not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial.

The forensics hospital is a secure psychiatric facility attached to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. It is run by Capital District Health Authority.

Department of Justice correctional officers provide security inside.

Jim MacLean, program leader at the hospital, said it's standard policy to have long term patients escorted by hospital staff, not correctional officers, when they leave the facility.

"We try to balance the security needs with also treating the individual with the mental illness with respect. We don't feel that it's necessary to take correctional workers with us in those types of cases," he said Thursday.

The hospital is reviewing the incident, but MacLean could not say whether they will make any changes to their policy until after that review is complete.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, which represents the nurses, is raising concerns about the incident.

NSGEU president Joan Jessome said they hope to meet with the nurses to find out exactly what happened, and then sit down with management to review the escort policy.

"I want to make sure they have the best safety practices put in place," she said.

"If that means that somebody else transports patients to appointments and if they're the ones that are trained and have the equipment to be able to do what's necessary to keep the patient and themselves safe, then those are the people that should be doing the transports."

Halifax Regional Police are investigating the incident.