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'Heartbreaking and alarming': Union demands action after another Southlake nurse attacked

SEIU Healthcare is demanding an urgent meeting after a registered practical nurse was attacked Thursday evening by a patient, just six days after another nurse suffered severe workplace injuries
Southlake Regional Health Centre. File photo/NewmarketToday

In the wake of another violent attack against a nurse working at Southlake Regional Health Centre, a health-care workers union is demanding immediate action.

"The most recent fines that Southlake received were a slap on the wrist that didn't line up with the seriousness of these incidents. The continued violence happening at Southlake Regional Hospital is sickening, heartbreaking and alarming, and it is clear that whatever actions they have taken since the horrendous incidents last  January have not been enough," SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart said in a news release.

"We are demanding Southlake hold an emergency meeting with us to ensure the protection of our frontline health-care workers," Stewart added. 

SEIU Healthcare, which represents more than 60,000 frontline health-care workers, including more than 7,500 nurses, is staging a rally against workplace violence Monday, Oct. 26 at the Newmarket hospital after a registered practical nurse was attacked Thursday evening by a patient, just six days after another nurse suffered severe workplace injuries, according to a news release.

Those violent incidents occurred after Southlake pleaded guilty and was fined $80,000 on Oct. 16 in connection with a January 2019 incident when a patient in the emergency department violently assaulted a registered nurse — who has yet to return to full-time work — and a security guard.

The union is demanding an urgent meeting with Southlake president and CEO Arden Krystal, frontline staff members, Ontario Minister of Health and Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Elliott, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Additions Michael Tibollo, and representatives from the mental health and addictions sector to create an action plan that will ensure safety for everyone at the hospital, SEIU Healthcare said.

On the day of the guilty plea regarding the January 2019 attack, Krystal said in a statement posted on the hospital website that violent incidents "are incredibly rare" and that a comprehensive violence prevention strategy has since been developed.

"Going forward, Southlake will continue to work collaboratively with our union partners. We remain focused on our collective objective of minimizing the risk of violence in our hospital. By taking a constructive approach and working together in partnership, we have made significant progress together and I am confident that this will continue," Krystal said.

The rally, which takes place Monday at 3:30 p.m. in front of Southlake, is being held to demand an end to workplace violence and a meeting "to fix a system that is failing to protect people," the union stated.

"Nurses across Ontario are already putting their lives on the line each day as they fight COVID-19. Violence in the workplace is something nurses should not have to worry about. If Southlake's leadership can't solve the ongoing violence taking place in their hospital, and it's evident at this point they can't, then the government should immediately step in to fix an underfunded system that puts all hospital workers at risk," said SEIU Healthcare nursing division president Jackie Walker.

SEIU Healthcare members work in hospitals, homecare, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province.

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Debora Kelly

About the Author: Debora Kelly

Debora Kelly is NewmarketToday's editor. She is an award-winning journalist and communications professional who is passionate about building strong communities through engagement, advocacy and partnership.
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