Last week’s commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre is a reminder that the struggle to eliminate violence against women is ongoing. Unfortunately, this is also true for our workplaces.
Recently, several stories of both physical and psychological attacks on healthcare staff have made headlines. The news of a patient attacking their psychiatrist at the pavillon Albert-Prévost and another recent attack at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute was upsetting to say the least. Let’s be honest, the level of violence that staff, including healthcare professionals, has to face today has reached a dangerous limit.
Moreover, a few days ago, health and social services labour organizations asked the government to take swift action to counter the sharp rise in work accidents and injuries among employees. The health and social services sector, which only represents 9.8% of Quebec institutions, sadly accounts for 18% of workplace accidents and injuries in Quebec. The CNESST’s spending for cases of violent incidents in our workplaces has increased by 82% over the last two years. That’s huge!
Healthcare professionals are exposed to all kinds of threats on a daily basis, including verbal and physical attacks, sexual harassment, etc. For too many years now, managers have stood by and done nothing, as if violence was just part of the job. Well, it isn’t! What is part of the job is caring for patients who might pose a threat, small or big, to themselves or staff. That is why it’s important that these patients be treated in a secure environment, by a sufficient number of qualified staff.
We know that healthcare professionals work in extremely demanding conditions with understaffed teams, a lack of stability, excessive workloads, very complex patient cases and, of course, mandatory overtime (MOT). All of these factors are the responsibility of the employer and the Health Minister and create an environment that is conducive to both psychological and physical violence.
During the 24 hours for the safety and quality of care on November 15 and 16, 2019, we once again denounced the organizational violence perpetrated through mandatory overtime. Forcing healthcare professionals to stay at work after a regular shift, despite the fact that they are mentally and physically exhausted, should be illegal. The good news is that we have raised awareness about the harm that MOT inflicts both on healthcare professionals and on the quality and safety of patient care.
All of these reasons combined are why the FIQ has made health and safety at all levels one of its two top priorities in these provincial negotiations. All forms of violence should be denounced and it is high time that solutions be implemented to put an end to it. It is the government’s duty to take immediate action!