‘We are seeing violence almost every shift’: Healthcare workers seeing uptick in abuse from patients

Frustration is increasing among people seeking treatment in hospital, and front line healthcare workers are taking the brunt of it.

Nurses and doctors in the province are seeing an increase in violence and abuse from patients, and a recent survey shows the increase is believed to be related to the pandemic.

At a COVID-19 news conference on Friday, Health Minister Audrey Gordon spoke about the increase in violent incidents.

“We want our healthcare workers, our nursing staff, our physicians to feel safe when they come to work, and as they move throughout the community,” said Gordon.

The Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) said abusive incidents are becoming more commonplace for its members.

MNU President Darlene Jackson said nurses feel they are more of a target for abuse than in pervious years.

“We’re seeing nurses that are being yelled at, that are being insulted, that are being spit at,” said Jackson.

“We are seeing violence almost every shift, every day.”

Jackson said she started seeing frustration from the public when the province began restructuring the healthcare system, and the pandemic has only increased those frustrations.

In December, a survey conducted by Doctors Manitoba revealed a high rate of mistreatment among physicians as well.

The survey showed 57 per cent of doctors experienced incidents of mistreatment over the past month, 52 per cent of incidents appeared to be linked to the pandemic in some way, and 59 per cent of physicians said incidents are happening more frequently.

The NDP Critic for Health, Uzoma Asagwara, said these incidents are unacceptable, and everyone has a right to feel safe in the workplace.

“We also have to recognize that this government has created conditions in our healthcare system that put incredible strain, not only on healthcare workers, but on people accessing healthcare.”

Asagwara said the province needs to address the conditions they created in the healthcare system.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) said acts of violence are inexcusable.

A spokesperson for the WRHA said in part:

“We ask the public to please continue to treat healthcare providers and front-line staff with respect, especially during these difficult times. They are dealing with the challenges of working short-staffed, being redeployed to new areas, as well as managing the risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves. Despite these circumstances they continue to go above and beyond to keep our community safe and healthy.”

Moving forward, the MNU would like to see security in hospitals that can restrain and retain if needed, and would like to meet with Minister Gordon to address this growing issue of abuse.

Gordon said she’s open to discussing solutions.

“It’s never acceptable to lash out, threaten a healthcare worker, protest outside of our hospitals, and block patients from accessing care,” said Gordon.


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