Worker representatives in Ontario’s health care sector are encouraged by the first set of recommendations to come out of the province’s Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care Leadership Table. The report, “Preventing workplace violence in the health care sector”, makes 23 recommendations and provides a status report on each, revealing that several have already been put into place.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions have pronounced it a good start.
The Leadership Table is charged with examining violence in health care broadly, but its first order of business was the nursing profession. Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, described violence against nurses as an epidemic in an EcoLog News article published August 14, 2015, shortly after she was named to the Leadership Table. The statistics — violence accounted for 10% of lost-time injuries in the health care sector — vastly understate the problem, she said, because there is a culture of underreporting of violence within the profession.
The report’s 18th recommendation is a multi-faceted program to ensure thorough and consistent reporting of violent incidents. That recommendation calls on hospitals to assess their reporting systems, and communicate clearly and consistently about reporting protocols and the actions that follow a report. The two responsible ministries (Labour, and Health and Long-Term Care) will have to do the same thing province-wide to ensure consistency across the health care sector. They must also develop resources to help hospitals develop appropriate practices.
Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, doesn’t believe that will be enough. There’s a culture within the health care sector, reinforced by its leadership, that discourages and even punishes any discussion of workplace violence, he tells EcoLog News.
“We need to be able to talk about the violence problem in order to address it,” he says, and he doesn’t trust hospital management to lead that process. It needs to be led by government, he says, and enshrining the principles of recommendation 18 in law would be a step in the right direction.
He also believes that there is a direct link between understaffing and violence, and that link has to be acknowledged and addressed. Understaffing leads to more workers working alone or in environments where there is not sufficient backup if violence threatens to erupt.