UPDATE – Charges Laid Against 62 Year Old Patient – Nurses Union Upset Over Violent Assault At Abby Hospital

Abbotsford – The BC Nurses’ Union calling for the provincial government to take immediate action to address systemic violence after unprovoked attack at Abbotsford Hospital.

Abbotsford Police have recommend charges to Crown. On Tuesday September 24th, Abbotsford Police were called to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital for a report that an on-duty nurse had been assaulted.

Upon arrival, it was determined that the nurse had been attacked by a patient, resulting serious injuries to her head and face, requiring immediate medical attention. 

The 62-year-old male patient, Neale Heath, has been arrested by the Abbotsford Police and he has been charged with aggravated assault. 

According to the Union, the nurse is lucky to be alive after she was viciously attacked while on shift at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) early Tuesday morning. The patient who used an exercise weight as an improvised weapon, ambushed the nurse leaving her with a broken jaw, fractured cheek bone, damaged teeth, as well as other serious facial and head injuries. She was expected to undergo surgery on Wednesday.

“I’m deeply troubled by this latest gruesome and excessively violent attack on one of our nurses,” says BCNU president Christine Sorensen. “It’s time the government steps up and provides funding so that health authorities can ensure safety protocols are in place and nurses’ safety is made a priority.”

Both WorkSafeBC and police have sent investigators to ARH. The patient/perpetrator was taken into police custody on Tuesday and later returned to ARH for additional medical treatment. He has since been charged with aggravated assault and the Crown recommends he remain in custody.

“It concerns me that this person was able to get his hands on a weapon and attack this nurse, who was there just doing her job and caring for patients,” says Sorensen. 

Since 2017, BCNU has been running the campaign, ‘Violence. Not Part of the Job’, which has successfully raised awareness about the systemic violence nurses experience on a daily basis. In BC, public polling has found that nine out of 10 people feel more needs to be done to keep nurses safe.

Tuesday’s attack comes just days after BCNU sent a letter to Dr. Victoria Lee, Fraser Health Authority’s President and CEO, calling for immediate action to address the deteriorating conditions in ARH’s emergency department. While the assault happened in a different unit within ARH, ongoing violence, staffing shortages and recruitment and retention challenges have many nurses self-reporting moral distress, and burning out.

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