Changes to stop patient-on-staff violence announced for Coquitlam's psychiatric hospital

Increased security, staffing and training coming to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital which treats those found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Increased security, staffing and training coming to Colony Farm Forensic Psychiatric Hospital

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam is home to those found not criminally responsible for crimes or deemed unfit to stand trial due to mental health concerns. (Provincial Health Services Authority)

Changes are coming to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam to improve worker safety in the wake of a wave of patient-on-staff violence. 

The Provincial Health Services Authority says it is increasing staffing levels and expanding security and training at the 190-bed facility which treats those who have been found either unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible for a crime due to mental illness.

B.C. Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen says she is cautiously optimistic about today's announcement but wonders why it took so long for the PHSA to act.

Verbal abuse and physical assaults 

"Nurses were being injured at one point over the summer almost weekly,"  Sorensen said.

"At the very minimum nurses working at Forensics are exposed to verbal abuse every shift. There's been physical assaults to the point where nurses have had concussions...and serious scrapes with blood exposure... In 2012 we had a health care worker stabbed at this site."

Lynn Pelletier, vice president of B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services, which operates the hospital along with the PSHA and Ministry of Health, says worker safety has been addressed in the past.

"We have been gradually making improvements to staff safety and a number of programming issues over the last couple of years," Pelletier said.

"I think what's happened is our patient population is getting more complex and serious so we're seeing more incidents occurring," she said.

On Sept 11, four hospital staff — two health care workers and two nurses —  were injured in a violent attack by a patient according to a report by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. One of the workers was taken to hospital with severe injuries. 

Two weeks earlier, the BCGEU criticized the PHSA's "clear and willful pattern of neglect" in addressing the longstanding problem of worker safety at the facility.

57 safety orders in 5 years

In the last five years, WorkSafeBC has issued 57 safety orders at the hospital according to the BCGEU. Additionally, 102 WorkSafeBC inspection reports have cited PHSA's failure to protect workers at the facility.

Improvements announced Wednesday include beefing up security teams, establishing specialized clinical-security liaison positions, expanding staff training, increased supervision by nurse leaders and the hiring of additional frontline staff.

Pelletier said two additional security personal and 12 clinical staff will be hired immediately. She said the cost of Wednesday's announcements have yet to be finalized. 

Corrections

  • In an earlier version of this story, B.C. Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen misidentified the person stabbed at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital as a nurse. In fact, it was a health care worker.
    Sep 21, 2018 8:52 AM PT