The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society is no stranger to workplace violence.
“I don’t think a single work shift goes by where I don’t directly witness or hear off a staff member who has had a close call or has been a victim of violence, whether that be someone screaming at them or berating them or actually hitting them,” said Dr. Serge Melanson.
On Tuesday, the New Brunswick Nurses Union sent a letter to the Higgs government calling for improvements to hospital security. The union acquired documents from the Department of Health that show red flags were raised in August 2018 regarding security measures.
Forty-eight security guard positions were vacant as of May 1, 2019, there’s an 82 per cent annual turnover rate in hospital security personnel, and two-thirds of hospital security guards say they have inadequate resources to fulfill their duties.
“This information that was uncovered fundamentally puts our members at risk and NBNU views this matter as a clear violation of our Collective Agreements, a crisis in workplace health and safety at New Brunswick hospitals and a determinant to patient safety,” Doucet wrote in the letter.
The letter comes just months before 69-year-old Randy Van Horlick is due to stand trial for charges stemming from an alleged assault of nurse Natasha Poirier while she was on shift at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre.
Melanson said the phenomenon is not new, but that an increase in patient volume as well as the rising number of mental health and drug related hospital visits are combining to create a dangerous environment.
“It does seem to be getting worse. I think in large part because our hospital’s are overcrowded whereas they weren’t years ago. We’re seeing patients more and more frustrated with lengthy wait times and access to their health care,” he said.
Melanson said the findings are troubling and agrees with the union that hospital security needs to be improved.
“I think security is the background, it’s cornerstone of what we need in our hospitals to keep patients safe, staff safe, visitors safe,” he said.
A request for comment from health minister Ted Flemming was not immediately answered.