Threats, violence hurting north-end hospital

  • Dec. 23, 2009 9:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–The Northern Haida Gwaii hospital is losing nurses and other workers because of ongoing threats and violence by community members, says chief of physician staff Dr. Andrea Wilhelm. Dr. Wilhelm said that in the four years she has worked in Masset, she has seen three nurses leave the community after being threatened with violence and a lab tech leave after being beaten up. “Now this weekend we have lost two nurses who are too afraid to continue working after being threatened by community members while they were working in the emergency department Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,” she said. “Moreover we have a few new graduate nurses who have just signed on full-time at our hospital who are thinking about leaving because it may be too dangerous a place to work. We are now short-staffed at the hospital because of these incidents and have little hope of finding staff to cover the shifts on this late notice over Christmas holidays.” In one of the latest incidents at the hospital, police arrested a man Dec. 11 after he appeared at the nurses’ station with a sword, demanded drugs, and then ripped the narcotics cabinet off the wall. Police were called to the hospital again the next night when a community member shoved a nurse. Dr. Wilhelm said one of the biggest complaints she hears from patients in Masset is that they’re always seeing new faces at the clinic and hospital. But it’s difficult to keep staff working here with the ongoing incidents of physical and verbal violence. Nurses can easily get jobs other places, and they don’t get paid anything extra to work in Masset, Dr. Wilhelm said. Northern Health works hard to recruit staff here by stressing the warmth and friendliness of the community and the attractive environment. “This is a beautiful, beautiful place, and the folks are wonderful,” she said. “But basically, who’s going to stay in a town, when this happens?” Dr. Wilhelm said she would like community members to be aware of the problem and the effect it has on health care. If people are concerned about the way they are being treated at the hospital or the way a family member or friend is being treated, there are lots of options that don’t involve violence or threats, she said, such as talking to the hospital administrator.