Staff members who work with Nova Scotia’s most developmentally delayed and mentally ill adult patients are raising the alarm over inadequate staffing and serious health and safety issues at Emerald Hall.
In light of a recent incident reported in the media, the union held a meeting with members who work on this unit, which houses up to 12 patients who are living with an intellectual or developmental disability, as well as complex mental health or behavioural difficulties. The NSGEU represents the Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Developmental Workers, Behavioural Analysts, Recreation Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy Assistants, Therapeutic Assistants and Care Team Assistants who work on this unit.
“These staff members are working under incredibly difficult circumstances on the best of days, providing care for patients who can be very violent towards themselves and others,” said NSGEU President Jason MacLean.
“Staff are regularly bitten, scratched and assaulted by full-grown men who may not know their own strength.”
These incidents are reported via the NSHA’s “SAFE” line, but controls are not being put in place to ensure both staff and patients are being protected. Additionally, there is a family member who has alleged mistreatment of a patient, and we are calling on the employer to investigate, as we are confident they will clear our members of wrongdoing.
Another major concern is the inconsistent and often inadequate staffing mix in place on this unit, particularly during the evening shift. During the day, there are 12 staff scheduled. But at night, there are just four staff members on duty – in addition to two private security guards who are not formally trained in dealing with patients. Recently, staff were instructed to leave all patients’ doors unlocked at night, due to concerns raised by the Fire Marshall.
“If patients are going to be freely moving around the halls at all hours of the night, the employer needs to schedule more properly trained staff – not just security guards – to this unit,” said MacLean.
The NSGEU is calling on Health Minister Leo Glavine and NSHA CEO Janet Knox to ensure there is an appropriate staffing mix in place on this unit at all times, and reported incidents are investigated and preventative measures put in place in a timely manner to ensure the safety of both patients and staff.