(Clockwise) Ontario Council of Hospital Unions President Michael Hurley, and University of Windsor researchers Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith reveal a report detailing violence against healthcare staff. November 30, 2017 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)

Assaulted And Unheard

As more and more sexual assault cases are reported in the entertainment industry, a new study has revealed that Ontario health care workers are also suffering in silence.

University of Windsor researchers Margaret Keith and Jim Brophy released their latest report, detailing violence against health care staff, in Sarnia on Thursday.

Keith says over several months they visited every corner of the province, interviewed 54 nurses, personal support workers and staff, and found that violent incidents occur regularly in the industry and in some cases everyday.

“Some of them had been physically assaulted and in some cases have been permanently injured,” said Keith. “In other cases they had been verbally abused, and even sexually abused or sexually assaulted in some cases.”

Keith says the workers are often “shamed and blamed” and the silence surrounding the issue is very concerning.

“This is all really being hidden because health care workers, as it stands now, are not allowed to talk about these things publicly for fear of being fired,” says Keith.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions President Michael Hurley says a recent poll of 2,000 health care workers found 44% were afraid to report incidents for fear of reprisal.

“We need the provincial government to support people to report violence safely and to speak up about it,” says Hurley. “It would [also] be great if the federal government would consider doing for health care staff what they’ve done for transit staff, which is to change the criminal code to make it a more serious offence for the purpose of sentencing if you assault a health care worker.”

Hurley says the poll also reported that 68% of direct care providers said they had been physically assaulted in a hospital at least once in the last 12 months, 20% had been assaulted more than nine times, and 24% had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted.

To view the study click here.