On the same day that two nurses’ unions were telling the media their members don’t feel safe working at Hillside Psychiatric Centre, another nurse was being attacked by a patient and was taken to hospital to be checked over.
The union reps held a press conference in front of the centre Thursday morning to talk to the media about violence against nurses in the building.
Sometime that day, a veteran psychiatric nurse was injured by geriatric patient, said Union of Psychiatric Nurses president Dan Murphy.
He said Friday the nurse was elbowed by the patient and left with bruised ribs. She was examined at the hospital to ensure they weren’t broken.
“She’s uncomfortable, but she’s going back to work,” he said.
“They were short staffed and having to do double duty having to cover each other’s patients.”
WorkSafeBC was at Hillside Psychiatric Centre Friday to investigate the Saturday attack that prompted the press conference in the first place. In that case, a neurological patient hit a nurse in the face, knocking her to the floor. He then jumped on her and pinned her. Eight staff were needed to get him off.
Murphy disagreed with some of the comments made Thursday by Sandy da Silva, IHA regional director for tertiary mental health services.
While she said staffing levels are appropriate, at one nurse per four patients, he said a minimum of three nurses are needed for each area.
“If two nurses are on and one takes a break, what do they do?” he said.
“With mental health, the acuity can change from moment to moment. . . . Management would call it overstaffing, we call it safe staffing.”
He also criticized Hillside’s duress system, an internal alarm that allows nurses to press a panic button and alerts others to where they are in the building.
Da Silva said Thursday she’s only known it to be down three times in her six years at the building.
Murphy said it’s been down much more frequently than that.
And BCNU Thompson-North Okanagan regional representative Tracy Quewezance said Friday she’s heard from Hillside staff that the duress system has been down three times in the past week alone.
The nurses test the system with their panic buttons at the start of every shift. If it’s not working, they have to reboot it.
On Thursday — the day of the second nurse attack that has gone public — it was down twice, she said.
“Thursday morning at the beginning of the shift it was down. They had to reboot and restart it. Then between 3 and 3:30 there was a nurse who had an incident and had to call a code and the duress system did not work. They had to reboot it again,” she said.
There have been times when staff have checked the system and it hasn’t indicated where they were, she added.
“There are a lot of glitches in this duress system, which is why they’re replacing it, but it’s taking a long time. It’s taken at least two years,” said Quewezance.
Murpy said he’s been told a new duress system would cost $70,000.
Da Silva wouldn’t comment on the cost Friday because it’s out for a request for proposals. She said she put out an RFP in June, but hadn’t set aside enough money so she had to request an increase before putting it out a second time.
No code white (possible threat) was called for Thursday’s incident involving the psychiatric nurse, but there was another proactive code white attempt on that day when the duress system malfunctioned.
The system has since been tested and is working, da Silva said.
When nurses go on breaks, there is a system whereby they look after each others’ patients, she said.
There was a major failure of the duress system two years ago at Christmas. Additional staff were put on and a walkie-talkie system was used as a backup, she said.