2 nurses sent to ER after assaults at B.C. psychiatric hospital

B.C. nurses are calling for immediate action after two serious assaults at Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in just over a week.

Employer rejects call to place security officers in every unit at Coquitlam facility

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam houses people accused of crimes who have been deemed unfit to stand trial or declared not criminally responsible because of mental illness. (Provincial Health Services Authority)

B.C. nurses are calling for immediate action after two serious assaults at Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in just over a week.

According to the B.C. Nurses' Union, the most recent attack happened on Monday, when a nurse was assaulted by a patient in the hospital's maximum security unit. The woman was left with severe cuts on her face and had to be taken to the emergency room.

It follows another assault on Aug. 5, when another nurse was sucker-punched by a patient, according to the union. She suffered a concussion and also required ER treatment.

"Both of these nurses are extremely traumatized by these events," BCNU president Christine Sorensen told CBC.

"Often, out of very serious incidents … that happened in the workplace, we have nurses that develop mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes it's very challenging for them to return to the workplace."

She said she wants to see the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), which operates the hospital, immediately bring in safety protection officers for every unit in the facility.

'Not something that we believe is helpful'

But that isn't going to happen, according to Connie Coniglio, chief operati​ng officer for PHSA's Complex Mental Health and Substance Use Services.

She said that while she's very concerned about the two assaults, having security officers on the units could actually make patients more anxious and likely to become aggressive.

"It's not something that we believe is helpful. We really want to focus on providing a very therapeutic environment for our patients, who … are very unwell and our experience is that security officers on mental health units are triggering," Coniglio said.

The psychiatric hospital is a 190-bed facility that treats people accused of crimes who have been deemed unfit to stand trial or declared not criminally responsible because of mental illness.

Coniglio acknowledged that it can be a challenging environment for the people who work there, but those who choose to do so have "a real calling."

She said she shared the concerns of the union and wants to hear from nurses who feel unsafe to work on possible solutions. In recent months, Coniglio said, there have been improvements in staff training for dealing with patients and violent incidents.

"We're doing everything we can to improve safety and security and we're going to continue to work on it every day," she said.

Sorensen said that while the PHSA has taken recent steps to improve security and further improvements are expected soon, it's not enough.

"Unfortunately, in the interim, our nurses continue to get injured," she said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.