British Columbia

Nurse sucker-punched in face at Coquitlam psychiatric hospital

An attack on a nurse, who was sucker-punched in the face by a patient at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, is the latest in a series of assaults at the Coquitlam facility according the the B.C. Nurses Union.

Incidents of violence against nurses needs to be addressed with better security says union

A nurse was sucker-punched in the face by a patient Monday at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam. (Provincial Health Services Authority)

An attack on a nurse, who was sucker-punched in the face by a patient at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, is the latest in a series of assaults at the Coquitlam facility according the the B.C. Nurses Union.

"It was a totally unprovoked attack," says BCNU president Gayle Duteil. "The nurse was trying to provide care, trying to de-escalate a situation between two patients and he was sucker-punched and knocked to the ground."

The incident took place Monday. The nurse was treated at emergency, and remains off work. The RCMP was notified and charges are being considered.

Duteil says in September there were 13 assaults on staff at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, and says that management is not doing enough to ensure the safety of its employees.

"The challenge is that this is a forensics tertiary psychiatric hospital, and I used the word 'hospital' really with regret, said Duteil. "This is where criminals go to be psychiatrically assessed. This is where individuals, who are deemed criminally not responsible, live. So this is an extremely dangerous place."

Last December the hospital was fined $75,000 by WorkSafeBC after a report into three separate incidents, including the stabbing of an occupational therapist by a patient involved in a 'therapeutic cooking' exercise.

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was one of four facilities in the province targeted with additional funding announced earlier this year to help improve safety, but Duteil says it needs to add security staff inside the hospital.

"The security officers tend to the front door of the facility," she said. "[They] are nowhere to be found. They're at the end of a long series of hallways, not on the units where the nurses work."

Angela Draude, provincial executive director of the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission, says she will consult with nurses but claims putting security staff in the hopsital units could be counter-productive. 

"Evidence indicates strongly that the presence of uniformed officers in a challenging and complex population can actually trigger negative responses by our patients," Draude told CBC.

Draude, who has a background in nursing and in federal corrections, most recently as warden for the Edmonton Institution for Women, took over the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission last month. She is the fifth person to hold the position since 2008.

Duteil says the constant turnover and change in management has made it difficult for nurses to be heard.

"Now they're engaging ex-wardens as executive director of this place," said Duteil. "That tells you the circumstances."


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