British Columbia

Kelowna nurse allegedly assaulted at COVID-19 screening desk in hospital ER

The B.C. Nurses' Union is calling for protective barriers for nurses working at a COVID-19 screening desk at Kelowna General Hospital's emergency department after a nurse was allegedly assaulted on Wednesday.

A 37-year-old Vernon, B.C., man was arrested and is facing possible criminal charges

A nurse was working at a COVID-19 screening desk at Kelowna General Hospital's emergency department when they were allegedly physically and verbally assaulted by an irate patient, according to the B.C. Nurses' Union. (CBC)

The B.C. Nurses' Union (BCNU) is calling for protective barriers for nurses working at a COVID-19 screening desk at Kelowna General Hospital's emergency department after a nurse was allegedly assaulted on Wednesday.

The nurses' union says the incident happened shortly after 2 p.m. when a man who was coming to the hospital for treatment, allegedly struck the nurse in the arm, according to the RCMP.

The man was detained by security guards when officers arrived at the scene, said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy.

"It's not uncommon for us to be called occasionally to the hospital — especially to the emergency room — to deal with someone who is causing a disturbance or possibly being aggressive," she said.

"It is very unusual for us to deal with an assault to one of our health-care workers and of course we take that very seriously, especially given the current crisis and the fact that these people are already working very hard and this is the last thing anyone needs."

According to the BCNU, the patient was "irate" and allegedly "struck and verbally assaulted" the nurse who was screening patients coming into the emergency department for COVID-19.

The screening desk was not equipped with acrylic plastic barriers as a protective measure against spread of the coronavirus, according to BCNU president Christine Sorensen.

"Not only did this nurse experience a traumatizing incident that left her with physical injuries, she is also working through a pandemic on the front lines in a high-risk area, without the appropriate infection control measures in place," said Sorensen in a written statement.

"It's unacceptable to think Interior Health would not take all of the necessary precautions to protect nurses and health-care workers."

Interior Health, in a statement received after this article's initial publication, said staff safety is a priority.

"There is a dedicated 24-hour security presence in the emergency department at Kelowna General Hospital," the emailed statement read.

"Additionally, as part of the pandemic response, staff members who interact directly with patients are all provided with appropriate personal protective equipment."

The statement also said security staff intervened immediately in Wednesday's incident, but did not address the union's call for protective barriers.

A 37-year-old Vernon man was taken into custody and has since been released.

The RCMP said the man has a scheduled court date.

Police said they have referred the matter to the B.C. Prosecution Service which will determine if criminal charges should be laid.

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