NSGEU claims pregnant nurse was attacked by patient, Halifax police investigating

Halifax Regional Police confirm they are investigating an assault against an employee that occurred at the East Coast Forensic Hospital. File/ Global News

The president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) is renewing his calls for the health authority to conduct an independent risk assessment on violence in the workplace, after a pregnant nurse was allegedly assaulted while on the job.

NSGEU President Jason MacLean says the nurse was 33 weeks pregnant when the alleged incident occurred.

He says the nurse was left “completely vulnerable because her personal security alarm was not within reach and held together with masking tape.”

READ MORE: Halifax Infirmary emergency department has reached ‘dangerous tipping point’: NSGEU

“This issue was brought to the employer two months ago, on two different occasions, and each time the concerns were dismissed,” MacLean said in a statement.

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Halifax Regional Police (HRP) confirm they are investigating an alleged assault of an employee at the East Coast Forensic Hospital that occurred on Monday.

In a news release Thursday, HRP said officers were called to the hospital just after 3 p.m. to a call of a female employee being assaulted by a female patient.

They say the employee was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

MacLean is calling on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) to reconsider a workplace risk assessment after initially deeming it unnecessary.

“What more is it going to take before the NSHA takes action to protect its nurses and health care workers?” MacLean asks in his statement.

MacLean says a report was submitted to the NSHA on Feb. 23 in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act asking a number of concerns to be addressed, including:

  • Concerns that Personal Security Alarms (PLAs) were not consistently in working order
  • The PLA is triggered by using a slide button, the tape being used to hold the PLAs together prevented the emergency slide button from being easily activated;
  • The secondary alarm is triggered by pulling a string to remove the bottom plate, this is also hindered by the use of tape;
  • A request for a qualified independent violence in the work place risk assessment be conducted.

“These, along with other health and safety concerns, were not addressed to the satisfaction of the employees,” MacLean stated.

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He says as a result, a request was submitted to the Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee on March 28. MacLean says in a follow meeting on April 16, the employees were told a violence in the workplace risk assessment would be a “waste of time.”

MacLean says the alleged attack occurred a week after the NSGEU’s safety concerns were dismissed.

“If not for others hearing her screams, who knows what the outcome could have been for her and her unborn child,” MacLean stated.

In a  statement, NSHA CEO Janet Knox says this was a “very serious incident” and their first concern is with the woman and her family.

“An incident such as this requires immediate and thorough review and response and that work is underway,” Knox said. “The health and safety of our staff is critical to the care and support we provide to our patients.”

“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to better protect our staff against the risk of violence.”

But MacLean is calling for the NSHA to stop “turning a blind eye to the safety concerns of nurses and health-care worker who are doing their best to hold a broken health care system together.”


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