February 28th, 2019

NDP Wants to Stop Violence Against Health Care Workers

OTTAWA – On Thursday, NDP Health Critic Don Davies (Vancouver – Kingsway) introduced a bill to address violence against health care workers in Canada. The legislation would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault is a health care sector worker to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.

“Violence against health care workers has become a pervasive and growing problem within the Canadian health care system,” said Davies. “They deal every day with trauma and the public, and the number and intensity of attacks are growing at an alarming rate. This bill sends a strong message that those who provide such critical services must be treated with respect and security.”

Supporting Davies’ plan was Mark Hancock, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Tanya Williams, a CUPE member from the University Health Network in Toronto; Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions; and Marc Page, Bargaining Unit President for the Ottawa Hospital.

“Governments and employers across Canada have starved health care workplaces of the funding and resources they need to keep workers safe. Too many are forced to work alone or understaffed, and patients are left underserved, all of which has made violent incidents more prevalent. Finally, this issue is getting the attention it desperately needs,” said Hancock.

The number of violence-related lost-time claims for frontline health care workers has increased by almost 66 percent over the past decade, three times the rate of increase for police and correctional service officers combined. According to the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, there were 16,617 lost time claims for health sector occupations across Canada in 2017 alone.

“It’s a pressure cooker out there on the front lines of health care,” said Silas. “In addition to deterrence, this bill is about taking it out of the hands of nurses and putting it in the hands of law enforcement so that nurses can focus on our area of expertise: patient care.”

National data shows that 61 percent of nurses experienced a “serious” problem with some form of violence over a recent 12 month period. Over the same year, two thirds of nurses (66 percent) considered leaving their job to work for a different employer or in a different occupation.

“Health care workers take care of us at our most vulnerable. In turn, we have a responsibility to take care of them,” added Davies. “Governments, employers, unions and other health care stakeholders all have a role to play in tackling this crisis.”