New LHSC policy to assess risk of violence, aggression in all patients
Doctors in the inpatient and outpatient mental health department say the move stigmatizes their patients
London Health Sciences Centre patients will be screened for past violent or aggressive behaviour — in or out of hospital — and will be flagged to alert nurses, doctors and staff about the risk they pose, CBC News has learned.
The new screening tool will be in place no later than May 1, according to paperwork obtained by CBC News.
"The previous (violence-screening) policy was not always applied throughout the hospital," said James Murray, president of the Ontario Nurses Association Local 100, which represents 3,600 registered nurses at LHSC.
The new screening tool will be used throughout the LHSC, at the Victoria and University hospital campuses, but particular attention is to be paid to make sure mental health outpatients are screened the same way that mental health inpatients are.
Patients will be screened using the Acute Care Violence Assessment Tool, developed by the Public Services Health and Safety Association.
For each additional "observed behaviour," the tool increases the risk indicator. Anyone exhibiting one to three of those behaviours is flagged as a moderate risk; anyone with a score of four or five is a high risk, and those with six or more are a very high risk.
Those who work with patients living with mental illnesses say they are much more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
Attack on nurse led to policy change
The new screening policy is a result of an incident that happened on April 16, 2017 when a male patient with a history of violence was admitted into the adult mental health unit at Victoria Hospital and assaulted a registered nurse.
CBC News has obtained a copy of the Ministry of Labour memorandum of settlement that orders the hospital to use a "violence assessment tool" to screen patients for aggressive and violent behaviours both inside and outside of the hospital.
As of May 1, patient electronic charts will include an electronic flag about a patients' risk level.
But there will also be visible non-electronic flags so all employees, such as porters and housekeepers who don't have access to the electronic files, can easily identify potentially violent or aggressive patients. Those include a visual marker on the patient's wristband, by the patient's bed, on the patient's door and on the paper chart.
A LHSC spokesperson wouldn't speak about the new policy, saying only that there is "work underway to update the current policy" that has been in place since 2009.
In-class training about the new violence assessment tool is to be provided first for "high-risk units." Specifically, the acute mental health units, the psychiatric intensive care unit, the mental health outpatient clinic, the overflow room used to house mental health patients who don't otherwise have a bed, known as The Annex, the ER, and the geriatric behavioural unit.
The 2017 incident and subsequent agreement also led to:
- A third-party risk assessment of security measures on the adult mental health inpatient unit
- A security guard with authority to detain a patient being at the mental health reception area from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.
- A mandatory search policy for patients and visitors to the mental health unit.
The LHSC is currently surveying staff, patients and family members about the "patient experience" in the mental health unit, a spokesperson said.