Unionized staff at Laval’s Cité de la Santé say the hospital’s administration needs to move faster to improve security measures following a violent incident in the psychiatry department that is not the first of its kind.
On Oct. 25, according to a representative for nurses belonging to the Syndicat Des Infirmières Inhalothérapeutes Et Infirmiers Auxilières (SIIIAL-CSQ), a patient attacked another patient, strangling him to near-asphyxiation, before three burly security guards and an orderly were able to intervene.
According to the union, this followed at least five previous attacks during a single week in the same ward by mentally ill patients, which were reported by psychiatric department workers to hospital management, with a recommendation for better safety measures to protect employees.
Last March, Quebec’s workplace health and safety board identified several security failings in the ward, after which some changes were made. These included new panic buttons and special isolation rooms for deeply disturbed patients. As well, new staff was hired to respond to incidents involving violence.
Still, union officials say ongoing shortcomings include outdated security cameras and the indiscriminate placement of violently psychotic patients alongside others who are much more subdued.
Cité de la Santé isn’t the only Montreal-area hospital where staff have complained about inadequately safe working conditions in psychiatric facilities.
Union officials at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal reported in November 2019 that there had been four violent incidents over the preceding year, including an assault with a chair by a violent patient on a 63-year-old psychiatrist who was knocked out, and an assault on an orderly in his 60s in June that left the employee with serious brain damage.
The same patient was known to have assaulted a nurse a month earlier, while another patient stabbed an orderly in the neck in September the previous year.