New Brunswick

Nurses call for end to workplace violence as attacks mount

Members of nurses unions from across Canada rallied in Fredericton Tuesday in support of a nurse in Moncton, who was allegedly beaten by a patient's family member in March. They say there's been an increase in violence against health-care workers nationwide.

Union says attacks on health-care workers in New Brunswick have almost doubled in past 5 years

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, leads members in a solidarity chant outside the Fredericton Convention Centre. They're calling for action in the face of an increase in violence against nurses and other health-care workers. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

Nurse representatives from across Canada are calling for more to be done to prevent violence against them.

"Violence is not part of the job," chanted about 200 nurses gathered outside the Fredericton Convention Centre at noon Tuesday.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is holding its biennial convention in the city all week.

"Violence against health-care workers and especially nurses is increasing and becoming more severe," said the group's president Linda Silas of Moncton.

Members from different provinces told horror stories that have befallen their colleagues.

Nurses from across Canada protested workplace violence Tuesday during a convention in Fredericton. (Jonathan Collicott/CBC)

A nurse in Newfoundland and Labrador was stabbed multiple times with a pen.

A nurse on Prince Edward Island narrowly escaped a home-care appointment last fall with a patient who threatened her with a shotgun.

Five nurses in Nova Scotia charged patients and family members with assault last year.

Code whites on the rise

Documents released by the New Brunswick Nurses Union reveal there were more than 2,000 "code whites" at New Brunswick hospitals last year. A code white is when a health-care worker is under attack and all available security is called to that unit.

In the Vitalité Health Network, there were 1,217 code whites in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

There were 960 at Horizon Health Network facilities in 2018. Horizon reported its data for the calendar year, not the fiscal.

The union said it obtained the figures through a Right to Information request.

The numbers have risen sharply over the past five years — by 70 per cent in Vitalité and 95 per cent in Horizon.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions cited national statistics showing the number of violence-related lost-time injuries for front-line health-care workers across Canada rose by close to 66 per cent between 2006 and 2015.

That's triple the rates experienced by police and correctional workers combined, the federation said.

The rally coincided with a court appearance today in Moncton by a man who allegedly attacked a nurse in March at the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre.

The nurses are calling for the federal government to pass a private member's bill to make attacking a health-care worker a criminal offence.

They're also asking for targeted funding for health-care facility security and training.

"The violence is increasing because our health-care system is underfunded. Our health-care system is understaffed. They're overcrowded," said Silas.

"So it's a pressure cooker and people get upset, from families to patients to staff."