New Brunswick

Nurses union wants to see more security guards in hospitals

The New Brunswick Nurses Union is calling for more security guards to protect nursing staff in hospitals across the province.

There have been more than 2,000 code whites in the last year to assist a staff member under attack

The New Brunswick Nurses Union wants to see more security guards in hospitals across the province. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

The New Brunswick Nurses Union is calling for more security guards to protect nursing staff in hospitals across the province.

Paula Doucet, president of the union, said that's one of the main things needed to protect health-care workers from a growing number of aggressive patients and visitors.

"I think it is a whole societal shift that we have to do. And some education to the public that it's not OK to assault a nurse or any health-care worker, for that matter," she said.

She said many hospitals have just two security guards at night or throughout the day, which isn't enough. And unlike public schools, hospitals don't have lockdown protocols.

Staffing shortages also play a factor in workplace violence, which could mean it takes longer for a patient to be seen or get treated, Doucet said. 

If nurses aren't safe, patients aren't safe.- Paula Doucet, New Brunswick Nurses Union

"Everybody wants everything done quickly and done yesterday,'" she said.

"And when there are less staff to carry out those duties, of course the frustration levels get quite high. And what happens is they get upset with the person right in front of them. That person could happen to be a nurse."

Doucet said the workplace "isn't great right now."

And over the years, she said the number of assaults against nurses has increased.

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.

The numbers of attacks have almost doubled in the past five years.

More education needed

She says government needs to set aside funding to make facilities safer for health-care professionals in New Brunswick.

"You can walk through any facility right now pretty much unquestioned," she said.

Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, says most hospitals have two security guards at night or throughout the day, which isn't enough. (CBC)

Doucet said funding is also needed to provide more education to employees and the public that it's not OK to abuse nurses, whether it be physical, verbal or emotional.

"It seems like nobody's listening," she said.

For security reasons, Horizon Health Network said doors at St. Joseph's Hospital in Saint John will be locked after 5 p.m. Patients will only be able to access the facility using the Urgent Care Centre entrance.

The change will take effect on June 10.

"We believe by limiting the number of access points to our facility we are better able to ensure the quality and safe care provided at Horizon's St. Joseph's Hospital for our patients and their families," the health authority said in a news release issued Wednesday.

Horizon Health will continue to welcome family and friends to visit patients 24 hours a day.

Patients need to be safe

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is holding its biennial convention in Fredericton this week. Nurses in both Fredericton and Moncton have been rallying this week for more to be done to prevent violence against them.

They're also calling for the federal government to pass a private member's bill to make attacking a health-care worker a criminal offence.

Norma Melanson, mother of the nurse who was allegedly attacked at the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre in March, said the presence of colleagues marching to denounce workplace violence is a "great support." 0:58

Meanwhile, a 69-year-old man was charged Tuesday in Moncton court for allegedly attacking a nurse at the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre in March.

The alleged attack happened in the nurse's office behind closed doors before security arrived on March 11. The attack allegedly went on for about 11 minutes, leaving the nurse with a brain contusion and a broken nose.

"If nurses aren't safe, patients aren't safe," Doucet said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Jennifer Sweet

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