Lethbridge police were called to Chinook Regional Hospital shortly before midnight on Friday.
According to police, a man had been brought to the hospital by EMS for treatment. They alleged he then choked, assaulted and threatened to kill an emergency room nurse.
“Unfortunately, this is not rare what occurred,” said Kathy Howe, the executive director of the Alberta Association of Nurses (AAN). The organization formed in May as a nursing advocate group.
“What I think is rare is… (a suspect) was caught and charged.”
Howe believes health-care workers need more protection before an incident happens and when one is being reported. She said it can be hard for workers to make a complaint.
“Sometimes (health-care workers) are asked that question: ‘Do you want to call the police… and make an assault (complaint)?'” Howe said.
“It’s almost like a secondary trauma, like, ‘Are you now going to cause more problems?’ Or you’re a nurse, maybe you should be OK with that (treatment) or would it be doing harm to your patient?”
According to members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the problem is getting worse.
“We’ve really seen a rise in basically abuse of front-line workers,” said Bonnie Gostola, AUPE’s vice-president and occupational health and safety chair.
The AUPE represents auxiliary nursing care workers in southern Alberta.
Gostola blames strain on the health-care system for what she calls increasing incidents involving personnel.
“Shortage of staff — these long wait times are becoming critical and they’re hitting critical mass,” Gostola said.
“Unfortunately, it is our members who basically sit at the front of that and take the brunt of that.”
Global News contacted Alberta Health Services with a request for comment, including what protections are in place for staff and what happens after an incident occurs.
AHS did not provide a statement before deadline.