Monday, December 28, 2009

Troubling concerns over safety for health care workers on Haida Gwaii

"This weekend we have lost two nurses who are too afraid to continue working after being threatened by community members while they were working in the emergency department Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights"-- Chief of physician staff Dr. Andrea Wilhelm of Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital outlining an ugly aspect of the delivery of health care services in her hospital.

As though it's not hard enough trying to attract workers for the health care sector in the Northwest, now the added element of dangerous and violent working conditions is proving to be a road block to complete health care for a part of the Northern Health region.

The Queen Charlotte Islands observer website is featuring a worrisome report about violence directed against health care professionals on Haida Gwaii, a situation that is apparently getting so far out of hand, that health care workers are leaving their jobs and moving rather than deal with the cycle of threats and violence that seems to be an ongoing part of the job description at the Northern Haida Gwaii hospital in Masset.

Dr. Andrea Wilhelm, the Chief of physician staff at Masset's Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital, recounts a number of recent incidents at the hospital that have added to the image of a community that is not welcoming to health care workers, who as the doctor rightly points out can find other jobs elsewhere rather easily if they so choose.

Because of the ongoing nature of the threats and violence of late, the hospital in Northern Haida Gwaii is working on a short staffed basis over the holidays as health care workers refuse to come in to work shifts that they feel are too dangerous. In addition to that, recent arrivals at the hospital are now questioning whether the community is too dangerous a location to work in, something that should be of concern for all residents of Masset.

It should as well serve as a cautionary tale for administrators of Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, which eliminated on site security services provided by the Commissionaires as part of some budget cuts earlier this year, turning that duty over to the on duty nursing staff at the hospital, a task that probably wasn't high on their list when they signed on for the job.

We imagine if one were to inquire as to the situation locally, there could be similar concerns expressed, though clearly things do not seem to be on the same scale as the incidents on Haida Gwaii.
Judging by the concerns coming out of Haida Gwaii, these are issues that could very well determine the ability to attract or keep workers at any care facility in the Northern Health region. something that should be of worry to everyone in the community.

The Observer report provides a frightening look at the front lines of health care, one where respect isn't seemingly a concern of some of those that show up at the front door.

Threats, violence hurting north-end hospital
QCI Observer
December 23, 2009

By Alex Rinfret--The Northern Haida Gwaii hospital is losing nurses and other workers because of ongoing threats and violence by community members, says chief of physician staff Dr. Andrea Wilhelm.

Dr. Wilhelm said that in the four years she has worked in Masset, she has seen three nurses leave the community after being threatened with violence and a lab tech leave after being beaten up.

"Now this weekend we have lost two nurses who are too afraid to continue working after being threatened by community members while they were working in the emergency department Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights," she said.

"Moreover we have a few new graduate nurses who have just signed on full-time at our hospital who are thinking about leaving because it may be too dangerous a place to work. We are now short-staffed at the hospital because of these incidents and have little hope of finding staff to cover the shifts on this late notice over Christmas holidays."

In one of the latest incidents at the hospital, police arrested a man Dec. 11 after he appeared at the nurses' station with a sword, demanded drugs, and then ripped the narcotics cabinet off the wall. Police were called to the hospital again the next night when a community member shoved a nurse.

Dr. Wilhelm said one of the biggest complaints she hears from patients in Masset is that they're always seeing new faces at the clinic and hospital. But it's difficult to keep staff working here with the ongoing incidents of physical and verbal violence.

Nurses can easily get jobs other places, and they don't get paid anything extra to work in Masset, Dr. Wilhelm said. Northern Health works hard to recruit staff here by stressing the warmth and friendliness of the community and the attractive environment.

"This is a beautiful, beautiful place, and the folks are wonderful," she said. "But basically, who's going to stay in a town, when this happens?"

Dr. Wilhelm said she would like community members to be aware of the problem and the effect it has on health care. If people are concerned about the way they are being treated at the hospital or the way a family member or friend is being treated, there are lots of options that don't involve violence or threats, she said, such as talking to the hospital administrator.

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