The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions is sounding the alarm about violence health care workers face while on the job in Sudbury and across the province.
The union says 69 per cent of polled registered practical nurses and personal support workers in Sudbury said they have experienced at least one physical violence incident in the hospital in the past year, including punching, hitting or having things thrown at them.
In Ontario, the union says 68 per cent of registered practical nurses and personal support workers said they've experienced violence on the job.
The statistics were released in Sudbury by Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley, and Scott Sharp, a personal support worker who was thrown through a wall by a patient at a Guelph hospital two years ago.
'Swept under the carpet'
"The level of physical violence that I experienced and that so many other hospital staff experience every day, scars the body and scars the soul," he said.
Sharp had to have emergency spinal surgery after his assault, and is now living with chronic pain and depression. He said there hasn't been enough support for him or his family during the recovery process.
"Not enough it being done by the hospitals to create a culture where violent behaviour is simply not tolerated. Instead, the victims of violence are, to a large extent, simply swept under the carpet."
Sharp wants hospitals and the government to hold the public accountable for their actions when they verbally or physically assault a health care worker.
"We don't see people at their best, we see people are at their worst," he said. "We understand the pressure that they're under. But if you strike me, you spit in my face, you bite me, say racial things to me or sexually assault me, there needs to be consequences."
Level of violence in hospitals 'staggering'
OCHU also wants the province to offer more support to health care workers like Sharp, who want to speak up about their experiences with violence.
According to the survey, 44 per cent of registered practical nurses and personal support workers do not believe their employer is protecting them from violence.
"The level of physical assault is staggering. The level of sexual harassment and sexual assault has gotta be deeply disturbing and alarming. And the fact that the whole thing gets repressed, should be a real wake-up," Michael Hurley said.
The union says it's calling on the federal and provincial governments for legislative and legal changes to protect health care staff.