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Should assaults on PSW's at long term homes by patients be considered criminal?

'That the polling shows much higher rates of violence in northern Ontario long-term homes than the provincial average should be a wake-up call'
2019 04 03 PSW injuries
Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, show off the locations of injuries sustained on the job by the PSW's they interviewed at seven locations in Ontario. Photo by Chris Dawson/

CUPE officials are going to be pushing for some more protection for staff at Ontario long-term care homes.

Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) held a media conference at the Lakeshore CUPE office in North Bay to show more shocking statistics of violence in the workplace including some in North Bay.  

A CUPE poll conducted in the north revealed that 96 per cent of Personal Workers and Registered Practical Nurses experience physical violence at least occasionally. That is eight per cent higher than the provincial average.   

Along with that, a total of 62 per cent of PSWs and 60 per cent of RPNs polled say they experience sexual assault in the workplace.  

Richer says the poll reflects the anguish and emotional psychological pain of the long-term care workforce.  

“That the polling shows much higher rates of violence in northern Ontario long-term homes than the provincial average should be a wake-up call for all our MPPs to support minimum staffing levels in long term care,” she stated in a CUPE release Wednesday.  

To add to the statistics, a pair of researchers from the University of Stirling in the UK added supporting research from information they gathered through a number of interviews with long-term staff in seven Ontario communities.  

Dr. Margaret Keith and Dr. James Brophy worked in partnership on the study.   

“We actually know that statistically, they are at a much higher risk of violence than people who work in corrections or police officers,” said Dr. Keith about the current situation for staff at long-term homes in Ontario.  

“It is real and we do know this, that most of them are not even recorded.  The whole atmosphere is just so de-personalized and institutionalized and so much of the work that is being done is like an assembly line. The residents are not feeling the care that they deserve, they are becoming agitated.

“People who have dementia are becoming confused by all of this. They are feeling rushed. They are sensing the agitation on the part of the care workers and of course, they are lashing out.”

Collectively, the trio who made a presentation to the local media is hoping to get through to the government that these facilities are understaffed and individuals are not getting the required four hours of care per day that they deserve.  Dr. Keith believes that lack of staffing can lead to violent behaviour. 

Dr. James Brophy believes the provincial regulatory system is not working in long-term homes in Ontario.  

“We have heard that the regulatory system is not present, the health care staff feel like they have no protection from the government on this and Ontario has very poor regulatory history of going after these facilities and insisting and prosecuting when necessary, for failure to abide by the law,” stated Brophy, who lives in Windsor.  

“So whatever regulations we have, they are not enforced, they are completely broken.”

They are also looking to the federal government for help in relation to all these alleged attacks PSWs are facing.   

Dr. Keith believes some patients who attack PSWs should still be held accountable for their actions.  

“Some of the things that we heard are obviously being done by people who know what they are doing.”     

Richer added they are calling on the federal government to treat sexual and physical assaults against health care staff by mentally competent persons in a home as serious criminal offences.  


Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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