Assaults at Forensic Psychiatric Hospital highlight failure to provide a safe workplace for staff - BCGEU

BURNABY – Recent serious assaults on staff by patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Coquitlam highlight a disturbing trend that endangers the lives of workers at the facility, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.

"There have been 21 injuries to staff since May of this year, by patients who are at the hospital for committing serious crimes," said BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch. "There has been a clear and willful pattern of neglect on the part of the employer in addressing these real and substantial safety concerns."

In the last 5 years, the Workers' Compensation Board has issued 57 safety orders at Forensics and levied a $171,000 fine, along with 102 WCB inspection reports showing the employer's failure to protect its workers, but little progress has been made to secure the safety of their employees.

Unions have called for an increased security presence in rooms when staff interact with potentially violent patients. However, the newly appointed chief operating officer Connie Coniglio has refused, saying that the presence of security personnel could increase patient anxiety and trigger violent incidents.

"The Workers Compensation Board clearly stated in a March report that the presence of security personnel does not cause violent outbreaks," said Finch. "Workers are being assaulted while treating patients without risk assessments being done, with inadequate security protection. One could make the case that the employer is complicit in these attacks on hospital staff."

The BCGEU has written to the minister, calling on the government to bring the facility back into government service and to properly fund and train a sufficient number of staff at the FPH. The union has also asked the government to ensure that the employer adhere to the Workers Compensation Act and conduct risk assessments on patients, provide adequate security personnel on site and provide funding to fill gaps in risk assessments, including self-defense training for staff.

The BCGEU represents more than 270 members who work at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, with the majority working one-on-one with patients as health care workers, rehabilitation workers and forensic security officers.