The BC Nurses Union (BCNU) is calling for additional security measures at a Pemberton health clinic after a disturbing incident at the facility has resulted in a nurse taking leave for the past two months. According to police, on Feb. 19 an "aggressive" 16-year-old male was reportedly seen "banging his head on the doors" of the Pemberton Medical Clinic, trying to access the building. While an officer was en route, RCMP said the "highly intoxicated" teen managed to break in while a night nurse and patient were inside. The nurse was able to evacuate the patient to a safe room before police arrived.
"The nurse involved in that horrible night is not back to work, and that takes away a nurse — a valuable resource — away from a community, so we're very, very concerned about this incident," said Gayle Duteil, president of the BCNU. "It once again, unfortunately, demonstrates the risk nurses face on every shift."
In the wake of the incident, the union is calling on Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to improve security at the Portage Road facility. Ideally, Duteil said, a security guard and an additional nurse would be posted at the clinic after hours. As it stands, a nurse on call after 10:30 p.m. has to open the facility alone — a staffing level that has remained unchanged for years in spite of Pemberton's population growth,
Pique has learned.
Carrie Stefanson, public affairs officer with VCH, said a security review was completed at the clinic in the wake of the break-in and the health authority is exploring whether additional measures are needed.
"But I can say that security is certainly adequate there from our perspective and we are meeting all the protocols that are required," she added.
Following the incident, Stefanson said healthcare staff was reminded of "the importance of compliance with all safety procedures that are in place," including the requirement to wear personal protection devices at all times. VCH has also done "a thorough review of the integrity of the doors" and is investigating any potential security deficiencies at the site, Stefanson said. Additionally, VCH has installed a live feed of the clinic's emergency door that can be accessed by an on-duty nurse — although this measure was in the works prior to February's incident.
Duteil believes the added security doesn't go far enough.
"Vancouver Coastal needs to step up," she said. "They recognized (the need) and placed a security officer at the clinic for three days, and then they took the guard away."
The union head said the lack of action at VCH speaks to a concerning trend across the province.
"I'm disappointed in how every health authority responds to violence right now."
According to WorkSafeBC, the overall injury rate linked to workplace violence has increased over 50 per cent between 2006 and 2015, and the healthcare and social services sector accounted for 61 per cent of all workplace violence claims in that time. In the past decade alone, 9,231 injury claims due to violence have been accepted from healthcare and social service workers — amounting to almost three injuries per day.
The troubling statistics have been the impetus for the union's recent widespread TV and radio campaign to raise awareness of the dangers nurses face in the workplace. Duteil said the union "won't rest" until assaulting a nurse is categorized as a felony in Canada.
"Violence against nurses has been an ongoing, escalating problem for a period of time and we have not seen the needed improvements fast enough for the safety of our nurses," she added.
"This is a province-wide issue. It will be an election issue for the nurses of B.C., and it will be an issue in the next round of bargaining, because violence is not part of the job."
To learn more about the union's anti-violence campaign, visit bcnu.org.