Nova Scotia Nurses Union angry after gun incident not reported to them

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union president was reeling Tuesday when she learned from the news that an armed man had walked into the emergency room at Soldiers Memorial Hospital one week ago, putting staff and patients at risk.

Kings County man, 60, arrested after episode at Middleton's Soldiers Memorial Hospital

Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton says 60 per cent of nurses suffer physical or verbal abuse on a monthly basis. (CBC)

The president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union was reeling when she learned from the media that an armed man had walked into the emergency room at Middleton's Soldiers Memorial Hospital one week ago, putting staff and patients at risk.

Janet Hazelton is concerned that neither the Nova Scotia Health Authority nor the Department of Health and Wellness notified the union about the incident.

"We've been talking about this as an organization, the nurses union, for years — how our nurses are expected to be exposed in emergency departments and other units," Janet Hazelton said Tuesday.

"The doors are often not locked. There's limited security in our facilities and the security we do have are not permitted to restrain anyone, so our nurses are quite vulnerable."

The nurses were not injured but felt threatened, Hazelton said.

Man, 60, faces gun charges

"When someone is in your department with a weapon and you're trying to protect the patients before you protect yourself, the stress of that situation is huge," Hazelton said.

RCMP arrested a man at the hospital for causing a disturbance and possessing weapons.

The 60-year-old Kings County man is facing three gun-related charges. He will appear in Digby provincial court on Nov. 3.

Kristen Lipscombe, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said the authority followed its policies. 

"It is not a requirement or usual practice to notify union partners of workplace incidents on a day-by-day basis," she said in a written statement.

Lipscombe said the health authority is committed to preventing violence and to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all staff, patients and visitors.

"As a component program of the occupational health safety management system, a standardized workplace violence prevention program will be created," Lipscombe said. 

60% of nurses suffer monthly abuse

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union represents 6,900 registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses. Most work in long-term care facilities.

Over 60 per cent of those nurses have reported they have suffered verbal or physical abuse once or twice a month, Hazelton said.

"Sooner or later, nurses are going to say I can't work like this," Hazelton said. "They have the right to go home at the end of their shift safely to their families."