SUDBURY -- The Ontario Nurses' Association says it has concerns after a violent incident Friday inside the St. Joseph's General Hospital Emergency Room in Elliot Lake.

The Ontario Provincial Police said a patient was being assessed by a doctor when he suddenly became combative, causing extensive damage to the ER.

"They were obviously suffering from some sort of medical distress at the time and decided to, for lack of a better term, act out, causing damage to the emergency room and various types of equipment," said Const. Phil Young.

Officers were able to subdue the patient. Young said they had to take several things into consideration, including mental health and the safety of both the public and their officers.

"Officers responded and were able to speak to the individual and get him under control," he said.

Ambulances diverted

Staff had to close the department and ambulances were diverted to another facility while they cleaned up the mess.

He's now being treated at a psychiatric facility in Elliot Lake. Investigators have not ruled out criminal charges.

This is just the latest in a long string of incidents that's got ONA president Vicki McKenna demanding action and better safety precautions.

"A serious incident in the emergency room of St. Joseph's General Hospital has demonstrated just how unprepared this and many employers are for workplace violence," said McKenna in a statement. "It's unacceptable that a patient was able to do extensive damage in the hospital while registered nurses and healthcare professionals - and their patients - were unprotected."

McKenna said they've been told the incident is under investigation, including issues such as whether there was adequate security on site, whether the code white from nurses and staff was heard by everyone and how trained staff were in the proper use of panic buttons.

Calling it unacceptable, she added to her comments during an interview with CTV News.

Checks and balances

"It should be ongoing checks and balances, we shouldn't have to wait for something to happen for us to act, and that's what we're asking this employer," said McKenna. "Just to say 'you know what it happened, let's deal with that' but also 'if anything like that ever happens again that staff have the resources available to protect themselves and families.'"

"Violence is becoming pervasive, we're not seeing it just at this hospital but we're seeing incidents of violence elsewhere. It is unacceptable, we have to take it seriously and we have to deal with it head on," she added.

McKenna said an investigation is underway and the Ministry of Labour has also been called into assess the scene.

She's hopeful there will be dialogue between all stakeholders as they try to learn from the incident and keep it from happening again.

CTV News did reach out to the hospital was told by its CEO that he had no interest in providing any input or responding to ONA through the media. His only interest was providing "actioning deliverables" to better protect patients, staff and physicians.

The hospital has since re-opened and resumed normal business.