CBC: More Security Staff Assaulted at HSC as Officials Grapple with Shocking Attack Video

Oct 11, 2018

Two security officers were assaulted by a patient at the Health Sciences Centre emergency department in Winnipeg Wednesday, the same day the CBC released video of a patient attacking a nurse and security staff.

According to Winnipeg police, officers were called to the HSC at around 10:30 a.m. CT on Oct. 10. The security officers told them they were injured while trying to move a patient to a different area of the hospital.

The fight happened while they waited for other security guards to arrive. The patient was eventually restrained.

"We are grateful to the officers who responded quickly to this incident, ensuring the safety of other staff and patients. Both officers were treated for their injuries," wrote WRHA spokesperson Paul Turenne.

"We are concerned about the staff and they have been offered support. The Winnipeg Police Service attended, and will determine appropriate next steps for the individual, including whether charges will be laid."

While Winnipeg police believe the patient in the video from Aug. 31 used methamphetamine before going to the hospital, they don't believe meth was a factor in Wednesday's assaults.

According to police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray, when officers met with hospital staff after the incident, they said the patient was heavily sedated and could not be turned over to police. Officers helped staff transport the man to a locked isolation room in the psychiatric ward, he said.

"Unfortunately we've been told that hospital staff won't contact us when the male is fit for release due to privacy concerns," said Murray. He said while he understands that hospitals can't release someone until they're medically fit, the situation creates complexities.

"It certainly poses issues for us, we don't always have somebody that can contact the hospital. We'd like to take this person into custody as soon as possible."

HSC concerned about release of footage

On Wednesday morning, after CBC published video of the Aug. 31 attack, HSC interim chief operating officer Ronan Segrave circulated a memo to HSC staff citing concern over "the unauthorized filming and release of the security footage."

"Patients have an expectation of privacy and we, as staff, have a legal and moral duty to safeguard it. The Personal Health Information Act is very clear that sharing any information about a patient outside of individuals directly providing care is a breach of PHIA," Segrave wrote in a statement.

"Breaching patient health information and privacy should never happen. We take this issue very seriously and are currently conducting an investigation into the matter."

In both 2017 and 2018 — so far — April has been the month in which the most Workers Compensation Board claims were filed by an ER staff member as a result of a violent incident, according to a WRHA spokesperson. 

There were 15 claims related to violent incidents in April 2017 and 20 claims in April 2018.

The union representing security workers said they're concerned about potential legal harm to the officers.

In a letter to Health Minister Cameron Friesen sent on Wednesday, the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union asks for more support in delineating the roles and responsibilities of these security staff in order to prevent legal backlash for officers not holding peace officer status. Friesen issued a statement commending the work of security officers in responding to the attack on Aug. 31.

"While your apparent support for hospital security officers having clear legal opportunity to intervene is encouraging, your media statements would provide little protection to these officers should they face disciplinary proceedings or prosecution," wrote Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president.

The union wants the health minister to make good on plans made in September to meet.

Review training: patient advocate

"It calls for a review of adequate training for security. It calls for a look at what factors were happening prior to the assault. And were those adequately attended to? Were they addressed? From a best practice perspective?" said Chris Summerville, executive director of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. He's currently working with police in Ontario to develop a de-escalation program.

"I think also paramount in terms of the security guards: have they had adequate training in, No. 1, de-escalation of the situation? Because one can use tactics that actually escalate the patient's distress," he said.

He says research shows, for example, active listening skills can de-escalate a situation, as can crisis intervention training.

"But we also need to look at what has happened to that person prior to the assault … what triggers could have been avoided that contributed to the assault factor," Summerville said.

"I think it's paramount that proper and appropriate training is ensured for security guards: their safety and that of the other people and staff around them."

The WRHA has said in the past it's "enhanced" its non-violent crisis intervention training for all staff in the region. It is not clear what specific training is offered and mandatory for security personnel. HSC psychiatry department head Jitender Sareen said he strongly supports the recommendations made in the Virgo report to tackle challenges like workplace violence.

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