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Statement from Arden Krystal, President and CEO, Southlake Regional Health Centre

Friday October 16, 2020

Today Southlake pleaded guilty to two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act associated with a violent incident that occurred in our Emergency Department in January 2019.

The safety of everyone who works and receives care at Southlake is a top priority. We want everyone to feel safe at the hospital. This important issue is not just top of mind at Southlake, it is a priority at every hospital across the province. Thankfully violent incidents are incredibly rare. But even one incident is one too many and what happened in January 2019 had a significant impact for everyone at Southlake, particularly the two staff members who were assaulted. That’s why, in consultation with our staff, our union partners and our Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee, we developed and are continuing to implement a comprehensive violence prevention strategy to create the safest possible environment for everyone at Southlake.

Actions to date include:

  • Increasing security guard coverage in the hospital.
  • Opening the new Emergent Mental Health Assessment Unit, which was designed to directly address the concerns raised in the investigation of the January 2019 incident and factored in valuable feedback from staff, patients and the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
  • Implementing numerous recommendations from a comprehensive external review by an organization with expertise in the area of violence prevention in hospitals.
  • Launching comprehensive violence prevention and intervention training for all staff to provide them with skills to reduce the risk of harm when treating potentially aggressive patients.
  • Hiring a dedicated workplace violence prevention and safety officer to work full time with frontline staff and managers.
  • Refreshing our Workplace Violence Prevention Committee to be chaired by the CEO.
  • Preparing to launch the innovative Ambassador Program with our security services partner, the first Emergency Department in Ontario to implement this unique approach to proactive de-escalation and partnership between the clinical and security teams.
  • Adopting leading practices for identifying and flagging potentially violent patients to staff, physicians and volunteers.
  • Reinforcing awareness of our whistleblower policy where staff can anonymously report concerns.
  • Continuing to build on innovative practices like our staff safety pendants which send signals to our security team so that responses to potentially risky situations can happen immediately.

Capacity pressures have been a massive challenge at Southlake for many years as investment in the hospital has not grown as fast as the communities we serve. We have been very open about these challenges. In January 2020 we submitted our Master Plan to the Ministry of Health, which lays out our plan to address the overcrowding at our hospital. We are hopeful for a timely approval so we can move forward with the next steps in planning to expand our physical infrastructure so we can meet the needs of the communities that rely on us for care.

Going forward Southlake will continue to work collaboratively with our union partners. We remain focused on our collective objective of minimizing the risk of violence in our hospital. By taking a constructive approach and working together in partnership we have made significant progress together and I am confident that this will continue.