Hospitals seeing rise in violence, disrespect to staff

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—Last week, the Brant Community Healthcare System (BCHS) issued a press release citing a concerning increase in verbal and physical violence against their frontline healthcare workers, a trend being reported by various hospitals around the province. 

“At the Brant Community Healthcare System, we have zero tolerance for violence against anyone, including our healthcare staff who have been working tirelessly to care for the community through these challenging times. I understand many people in our communities are struggling for many different and justifiable reasons – but violence will not be tolerated in our hospitals,” said Dr. David McNeil, President and CEO of BCHS.

The Haldimand Press reached out to both the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital (HWMH) in Dunnville and the West Haldimand General Hospital (WHGH) in Hagersville to see if they are witnessing similar behaviours from patients.

The Haldimand War Memorial hospital in Dunnville.

“Sadly, HWMH is seeing an increase in rude, disrespectful, and violent behaviour toward our healthcare workers. In our Emergency Department, our volumes are the highest we have ever seen, and the wait times are sometimes quite long. This long wait can lead to anger and frustration that unfortunately gets directed at our teams,” said Sharon Moore, President and CEO of HWMH. “At HWMH, we have a zero-tolerance policy for any of this type of behaviour. We are working closely with our doctors, nurses, and all staff to ensure a safe workplace for everyone.”

West Haldimand General Hospital (WHGH)
West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville.

Aaron Gautreau, Director of Communications and Public Relations for WHGH, had similar sentiments: “The West Haldimand General Hospital Emergency Department has been experiencing high patient volumes, and with that, we have seen rude and disrespectful behaviour displayed against our staff and physicians. It has reached the point where it has resulted in emotional distress and moral injury.”

  He continued, “This type of behavior undermines the hard work and sacrifices hospital staff, nurses, and physicians have made throughout the pandemic. We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this targeted and misdirected abuse and harassment of healthcare workers that’s happened at our hospital.”

Moore said that, as a small hospital, these trends are deeply concerning to her: “We have staff and physicians who bring their exceptional skills and expertise to our community, and we need them to be able to work in an environment that is safe.”

The BCHS press release urged patients to consider the reasons they are coming into the ER, and to consider other options for care in situations that are not an emergency. This recommendation was echoed by both Moore and Gautreau.

“We would like the community to be aware 

of these circumstances before coming to the Emergency Department. For non-emergency care, other levels of care are available that may have shorter waits or be a more appropriate resource for their less urgent health concerns,” said Moore.

Gautreau shared a WHGH press release on the issue, which iterated that ER patients will be seen based on the seriousness of their condition, leaving patients with non-urgent issues waiting for extended periods of time.

“There are options for receiving non-urgent care – including walk-in clinics throughout the region, Health Connect Ontario, or virtual care. After-hours clinics can often treat non-urgent and minor illnesses and ailments, such as earaches, sore throats, or prescription refills,” said the WHGH release, which also directed patients looking for a COVID test, or test results, to contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

Both Moore and Gautreau shared words of encouragement for the many frontline healthcare workers of Haldimand County who may be feeling overwhelmed or threatened by the increase in unacceptable patient behaviours.

“A huge thank you goes out to all our staff and physicians who provide exceptional care to our patients and who continue to rise to the many challenges placed in front of them,” said Moore.

Gautreau added, “We are dismayed by this, as our teams are there to help and are doing the very best they can to provide safe, quality care…. To all of our staff: we are grateful for the sacrifices you have made throughout this pandemic and for going above and beyond every day to keep us safe. We are incredibly humbled by the resilience that you have shown. We stand by you and with you.”

He concluded, “Please know there is an overwhelming majority in our community who support you and the enormous sacrifices you have made and continue to make every day.”