Federal legislation protecting health-care workers welcomed, say P.E.I. unions
'Our members are there to provide care, and they should be respected,' says Karen Jackson
Federal legislation designed to protect health-care workers from intimidation will be helpful, say two P.E.I. unions, but enforcement will face some difficulties.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created more stress for both health-care workers and patients, and it has shone a light on the violence health-care workers sometimes face. That, in turn, has prompted the introduction of Bill C-3. C-3 would limit protests outside health-care facilities, by making it illegal to intimidate health-care workers or patients seeking care.
Two unions on P.E.I. believe it could help with issues of violence faced by health-care workers while they are trying to do their jobs.
"Our members are there to provide care, and they should be respected for the role they play in the health-care system," said Karen Jackson, president of the P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees.
The union represents licensed practical nurses, resident care workers, social workers, psychologists and pharmacists.
But Jackson told Island Morning host Laura Chapin it is not a complete solution. Her members often deal with people with dementia, and it will be difficult to hold them accountable for their actions.
In harm's way
Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, agrees.
"It will be interesting to see how it works out," she said.
"You can't hit a police officer, and you can't hit a bus driver and you can't hit a pilot on a plane — you're probably not going to be on the flight — but with nursing and in health care people are coming in and they are requiring services, and again if you have addictions and mental-health issues, this is one of the only places they can go."
People have a right to health care, she said, but that doesn't change that it is health-care workers who are in harm's way when someone needing care is in a mental state such that they can't control themselves.
But with 20 years of experience of working in an emergency department, Brookins said there are plenty of instances where people should be held accountable.
"There is definitely a group, that would be included in those that come in, that feel that they have the right to belittle someone because of a wait time," she said.
People convicted of offences under Bill C-3 could face up to 10 years in prison.
With files from Laura Chapin