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Southlake criticized for handling of nurse's assault

The Ontario Nurses' Association that represents a Southlake Regional Health Centre nurse who was critically injured by a patient last week says the hospital didn't immediately report the incident as required by law
USED Southlake sign 1 KC
Southlake Regional Health Centre. File photo/NewmarketToday

The union representing a Southlake Regional Health Centre nurse who was critically injured by a patient last week says the hospital is failing to take workplace violence seriously because it didn't immediately report the attack to required officials. 

The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) said Southlake has not complied with the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act because it “failed to immediately report the attack to the union, the Joint Health and Safety Committee, and the Ministry of Labour, as required by law," according to a statement issued Friday.

The statement was released as details began to emerge about the Jan. 17 incident that saw a registered nurse and a hospital security guard admitted to hospital after being violently attacked by a patient, who has been charged by York Regional Police.

ONA president Vicki McKenna said the association and its members are "anxiously awaiting" a report from the Ministry of Labour, adding the investigation appears to be a thorough one.

However, she said that "the hospital’s actions appear to signal that they continue to fail to take workplace violence seriously."

Officials at Southlake and the Labour Ministry confirm the ministry was notified of the incident on the day it occurred, Thursday, Jan. 17.

Southlake spokesperson Kathryn Perrier said hospital officials notified the ministry at 7 p.m.

York Regional Police received a call for service from the hospital about 2 p.m., Jan. 17. Officers charged a suspect at the scene with assault - aggravated level 3.

“The Ontario Nurses’ Association bargaining unit president is a sitting member of Southlake’s Local Joint Health and Safety Committee, and that committee was also notified the same day the assaults occurred on Jan. 17, 2019,” Perrier said.

“On Jan. 18, 2019, the Ministry of Labour investigators were at Southlake for the entire day to work with our staff and teams, including the ONA bargaining unit president, for the investigation. We continue to work with the labour ministry as that investigation unfolds,” she added.

“This horrific attack should never have happened,” McKenna said in the statement. “The employer has a very clear responsibility to take every precaution reasonable to keep its nurses and other staff safe, keeping our patients safe, as well.”

ONA also took aim at the recent release of Southlake’s strategic plan, which covers its priorities.

“There is no mention of workplace safety,” McKenna said. “What will it take for this employer to take action to keep its workers safe — thereby ensuring the safety and security of its patients?”

A union spokesperson was not available to provide additional information on its statement.