Ontario Nurses’ Association Calls on Province to Charge Southlake Regional Health Centre - Deadline approaches to hold employer accountable for critical injuries to a front-line nurse
January 9, 2020
TORONTO, January 9, 2020 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is calling on the Attorney-General’s office and the Ministry of Labour to act immediately and hold Southlake Regional Health Centre accountable for its failures to keep its workers safe.
“Since 2013, violent incidents against nurses and other health-care professionals have been repeatedly occurring at Southlake,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “Southlake Regional Health Centre has not met its clearly defined obligations under the Occupational Health & Safety Act. The Act clearly lays out the responsibilities of employers, and Southlake has not complied with them.”
One year ago this month, a registered nurse (RN) was viciously attacked in a workplace violence incident at Southlake; a security guard was also injured. Following the attack, ONA tried repeatedly to convince the hospital to put in place several measures to protect workers and their patients; none of the measures have been implemented, including providing self-protection training to staff. The hospital did not even meet its basic obligations: to immediately report the attack to ONA, to the Joint Health and Safety Committee, and to the Ministry of Labour. In addition, it did not secure the scene, as required by law.
“The Ministry of Labour has investigated the incident and this employer,” says McKenna. “Yet here we are, close to a year later, and the hospital has yet to comply with the Act. Incidents of violence continue at Southlake, and the Ministry has failed to charge the hospital. The legal window of opportunity to charge Southlake closes under Ontario law in mid-January,” she says.
“When will this government step up to the plate and do the right thing? Ontario nurses are appalled that it appears there is no intention of launching a charge before the deadline.”
McKenna notes that the Auditor General, in her late-2019 report, was highly critical of the Ministry of Labour for its lax oversight of employers who are ‘repeat offenders’ regarding occupational health and safety hazards. In her report, Bonnie Lysyk noted that the number of health-care sector injuries has risen by 29 per cent from 2013 to 2019.
“ONA expects to see the Attorney-General’s office and the Ministry of Labour take action and lay charges now,” says McKenna. “Anything less will demonstrate that this government believes violence is just part of our female-dominated profession’s job.”
ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as more than 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.