QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPP France Gélinas and the Official Opposition are backing new calls to protect health care workers from violence, following the release of a poll that shows extremely high rates of violence on the job. Gélinas is promising to re-table a bill that would help health care workers speak out and be better protected, and push for that bill’s quick passage.
The new poll was conducted by Oracle Research on behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) between May 17 and May 24, 2022. It shows a disturbing surge in physical and sexual violence against the women who make up 85% of hospital workers, including telling us that 71 per cent of racialized workers report being subject to harassment or abuse because of their race or appearance. Further, 49 per cent of all categories of hospital workers experience sexual harassment and 36 per cent experience sexual assault. Another alarming fact is that 18 per cent report an increase in the use of guns or knives against staff.
“Our frontline health care heroes are coming home with bruises, injuries, and trauma from being threatened — sometimes with a weapon. My heart goes out to them, but so much more than that, I know we can act to better protect them,” said Gélinas. “My bill, Speaking Out About Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Act would protect nurses and all health care workers from employer’s reprisals when they speak out about violence or harassment in their workplace. The bill gives the government a clear blueprint to start solving these problems, instead of punishing the victims and those who speak out.”
Gélinas' bill amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act to prevent any penalty of any kind from being used against an employee for speaking out about violence or harassment. The bill was introduced in the legislature in 2017, 2019 and 2021 but has been ignored by the Wynne and Ford governments.
“Unfortunately, in many Ontario hospitals and other health care settings, workplace violence is too often swept under the rug. Health care workers are left to feel like physical and verbal harassment is just part of the job. Violence should never be part of the job." said Gélinas. “This problem is getting much worse right now, with health care workers being forced to experience the brunt of public frustration caused by an overburdened and understaffed health care system. This is wrong, it’s hurting our health care heroes, and it has to change.”