2,000 'code whites' per year has Montreal General nurses demanding better security
Published Tuesday, September 5, 2017 10:54PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 6, 2017 1:57PM EDT
An attack on a nurse at the Montreal General Hospital over the weekend has the victim of a similar incident coming forward to call for more security for medical staff.
In May, 2016, Marie-Eve Carignan was working her shift in the General’s emergency room when she, too, was attacked by a psychiatric patient.
“She jumped on me, she was pulling my hair and hitting me,” said Carignan.
While two male staff members intervened, Carignan still suffered injuries to her back and legs and had clumps of hair ripped out. She passed out during the violence.
“It’s like my brain erased the situation,” she said.
Her physical injuries were bad enough but Carignan also suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress for months afterward.
On Saturday, a 25-year-old psychiatric patient strangled a nurse, with one colleague saying the nurse’s life had been in real danger.
Denyse Joseph, president of the MUHC nurses’ union, said the patient had managed to separate the victim from her panic button by laying on top of her.
Joseph said attacks like these happen too often and blamed budget cuts at the MUHC for there being a mere three security guards on duty for the entire General at the time of Saturday’s incident.
“They always tell us we have no money, so we can’t afford to have security guards 24/7,” she said.
MUHC spokesperson Richard Fahey said the security plan, which had one full time security guard in the ER and another part-time guard in the nearby psychiatric ER, is being reviewed “constantly to assess risk.”
According to statistics compiled by the General, there are 2,000 “code whites” – situations in which staff hit their panic buttons to call security guards and trained staff – every year. In some cases, personnel have been knocked unconscious.
“When you work in a healthcare institution, especially downtown where you get all the patients coming in, you get gangs and bikers coming,” said Joseph. “You need to have security 24/7.”
The union said it met with hospital officials last March and also in June to discuss the fact that they were upset there was only one full-time security guard for the emergency room and the and one part-time at the psych emergency ward at the Montreal General Hospital.
“We’ve had employees that have been struck. Right now we have about five employees that are off. We have one employee will end up with permanent limitations," said Fernandes. "It’s very, very serious – and not just our employees, it’s also the patients.”
Carignan said there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of security when she was attacked last year and that it took “a while” before they responded to her code white.
“Security needs to be a top priority,” she said.