Support workers and nurses in Sudbury are experiencing some of the highest rates of violence against long-term care staff in the province according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The news comes as part of a published study on violence against long-term care staff. 

Details of the study were released last week and shows violence against workers in care facilities is on the rise.

Now, union leaders say short-staffing is one of the issues facing the industry, and it's an issue leading to frustration all around.

Sharon Richer is the secretary-treasurer of Ontario Council of Hospital Unions

"With increased staffing and hours, they are able to sit with a client who is agitated, you know, to talk to them about what has happened in their past and to spend that extra five minutes, perhaps doing their hair or fixing their nails or just having someone to talk to.” said Richer.

Dr. Margaret Keith is a Canadian research who co-authored the study “Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-Term Care Staff.” She and fellow co-author Dr. James Brophy held group interviews with long-term care staff in seven Ontario communities.

"I think we can do an awful lot to protect workers when violence does exist. Yes, dementia is a big problem, but not everyone with dementia is violent." said Keith.

Results of a second study, involving the polling of over 1,000 front-line, long-term care staff in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and North Bay, were also released.

One participant said:

“I’ve been kicked. I’ve been scratched. Last night, I got punched in the back.  I’ve had shoes, hats, everything thrown at me. There’s not a day that I haven’t been abused whether it’s verbal or physical. Ever.”

OCHU and CUPE say the telephone poll found that:

  • 96% of personal support workers and Registered Practical Nurses experience violence at least occasionally, 8% higher than the provincial average
  • 74% of PSWs and 66% of RPNs experience at least one incident of physical violence each week, both over 10% higher than the provincial average
  • 60% and more experience sexual assault

“Long-term care homes in Ontario are largely staffed by women. Their work is based on compassion and care, and yet, they themselves are expected to tolerate an environment in which physical, verbal, racial, and sexual aggression are rampant. Adding to their burden is the implicit threat that they will be disciplined or fired if they speak publicly about these abuses.” said Keith.

The union is calling for an increase in staffing, added hours, and for Parliament to criminalize instances of assault against support workers.