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Newmarket hospital fined $80,000 for patient assault on 2 workers

Last Updated Oct 18, 2020 at 7:48 pm EDT

Southlake Regional Health Centre. Photo credit: southlake.ca

An Ontario hospital where a patient assaulted two staff members nearly two years ago has been fined $80,000.

The Ministry of Labour says the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., pleaded guilty to two violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The charges stem from an incident in January 2019, when two workers were trying to re-enter the nursing station in the facility’s emergency psychiatric assessment area after delivering food to a patient.

The ministry says another patient, who had been admitted earlier that day, was flagged as being a “moderate” violence risk and had been exhibiting “escalating” behaviours, struck both staffers as they were trying to get back into the station, causing serious injuries.

It says the facility violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to provide a way for those inside the nursing station to communicate with those outside of it without opening a door.

The ministry says it was also a violation of the act not to have procedures in place to safely enter or leave the nursing station when a violent patient is in the common area.

The Ontario Nurses Association called the plea bargain struck by the hospital and the Ministry “infuriating” and “disheartnening.”

“The attack has been life-changing for the RN and security. The fines imposed by Justice Prutschi do not hold Southlake accountable for the violence that occurred,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna. “We do not believe this is a deterrent for this employer and this does nothing to compel this employer, or any employer, to protect its employees.”

A release from the association said while this is the first incident in which Southlake was charged, they claim it’s not the first incident that resulted in injuries to staff.

“Decisions like this will have nurses and health-care workers feeling like they are expendable,” added McKenna. “There has to be a better way to ensure health-care employers in this province obey the laws and ensure their front-line staff have the safe workplaces they need and deserve.”

Editor’s Note: This is a corrected story. In a story on Oct. 16, The Canadian Press erroneously reported that the Southlake Regional Health Care Centre is a mental health hospital. In fact, it is a full-service hospital with a psychiatric department.