'It shouldn't be part of the job' - CUPE campaigns against workplace violence in hospitals

October 2, 2017

Most people expect a hospital to be a safe place.

But physical, verbal and sexual assault is a growing problem in Ontario hospitals, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The union has begun a campaign against workplace violence, since the problem has become a regular part of the job for many hospital staff.

"It's not right, it shouldn't be part of the job. We should be like everybody else in Ontario [who] goes to work [and] doesn't have to expect some kind of violence," says Dave Shelefontiuk, president of the CUPE local in Sudbury, Ont.

The union represents 1,200 staff at Health Sciences North (HSN), the hospital in Sudbury.

Big problem in health care

The majority of incidents at HSN are physical and verbal threats, or disorderly conduct, says David McNeil, vice president of Patient Services. He adds that workplace violence is a significant problem throughout the health care field.

"It's an issue that particularly in hospitals across the province is a problem," says McNeil. He blames the growing demand for health care. 

While we're implementing strategies and processes, the volume of patients is growing within health care, and the demands for health care are growing. We're seeing way more patients than we did five years ago."

Violence continues to be a problem, despite policies and strategies for prevention says McNeil.

At HSN, hospital officials have implemented policies on reporting and how staff can protect themselves. McNeil says they are also providing education on how to recognize potential violence and how to react.

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