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Vancouver Island Health Authority fined $97,500 over violent attacks on staff

Mar 02 2012

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has been fined $97,500 by WorkSafe B.C. because of three incidents of violence by patients against staff.

It was the fourth-highest penalty WorkSafe issued last year.

One psychiatric patient in Victoria was involved in two of the cases, while another psychiatric patient was involved in firing a pellet gun that hit three VIHA staff members in Nanaimo. The incidents date back to 2009 and 2010.

“VIHA has done extensive work on violence prevention since these incidents occurred and we were recently given a clean bill of health by WorkSafe B.C.,” health authority spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said in an email Tuesday.

As part of VIHA’s effort to prevent violence, more than 80 per cent of staff working in medium- and high-risk areas for violence have received violence prevention training, she said.

WorkSafe called the incidents “high-risk violations” and, in some cases,

repeat violations, “indicating a failure of the employer to ensure the health and safety of workers.” Patients in the cases had a history of violence, but that information was not passed on to workers, the report said.

VIHA’s fine was among 352 imposed against 289 employers in 2011 by WorkSafe. Fines totalled $4.8 million. Penalties ranged from $700 to a high of $250,000, which was imposed on Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co. after a worker was fatally struck by a 1.5-metre rock in Powell River.

Among the penalties,

15 involved work-related deaths. Almost 30 penalties were on Vancouver Island.

In August 2009, at VIHA’s Eric Martin Pavilion, a psychiatric patient leaped onto the counter of the nursing station and attacked a psychiatric nurse. “He jumped on top of the nurse, put her in a headlock, and repeatedly punched her,” said a WorkSafe inspection report. He later tried to headbutt a security official.

The same patient was later a resident of Adanac House, a residential care facility. One day in March 2010, he seemed tired and irritable, prompting a mental health worker to touch him on the shoulder to try to reassure him.

“The resident suddenly turned and threw the [worker] into the wall and then into the closet, repeatedly punching him.”

A nurse pulled the patient off the worker. The patient then walked to the hospital, where he was admitted and left to sit in the open area of psychiatric emergency services. Five minutes later, he tried to strangle another patient, WorkSafe said.

In another case in October 2009, a different psychiatric patient tried to leave Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, insisting he had been discharged, which was not the case. When a nurse and two security officials tried to prevent him from leaving, the patient pulled out a pellet gun. “He began rapid-firing the weapon, striking the three workers.”

The man, an involuntary patient, had been allowed to leave the grounds a number of times but had not been searched for weapons each time he returned, WorkSafe said.


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