The executive in charge of the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital (FPH) in Coquitlam is defending its approach to treating potentially violent patients despite the charge by a union that it is a “failed experiment” and workers’ lives are being endangered.
In a recent press release, Paul Finch, treasurer of the BC Government and Services Employees Union (BCGEU), which represents more than 270 workers at the hospital, said recent serious assaults by patients on staff at FPH show “a clear and willful pattern of neglect on the part of the employer in addressing these real and substantial safety concerns.” Finch and the BC Nurses Union want security staff present when any staff is dealing with a potentially violent patient.
Connie Coniglio, chief operating officer for B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services for the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), said the hospital adopted a “therapeutic and relational security” approach in July recommended by international experts as “best practices.”
In an interview last week, Finch said, “They’re conducting what’s essentially a failed experiment.
But Coniglio told The Tri-City News the approach has worked elsewhere in Canada and throughout the United Kingdom, which she noted has about 55 forensic psychiatric facilities compared to one in B.C.
“Their experience is it’s very effective in reducing aggression and violence in that environment,” said Coniglio. “We’re working on improving our systems because that’s where we believe that’s where we’re going to get the best outcomes in dealing with risks like this.”
Still, Coniglio maintained she shares the unions’ concerns about the recent incidents, which the unions have reported include severe facial injuries, a nurse being sucker punched and a worker being choked.
“We’re very troubled if someone is hurt,” she said. “All I can say is the safety of our staff and our patients is at the top of our agenda.”
She said PHSA wants to collaborate with the hospital’s staff, physicians and anyone who has an interest in safety at the hospital on tackling the challenging environment and complex issues inherent in a forensic psychiatric hospital.
“I want people to know the safety of our staff and the patients at the hospital are critically important to us,” said Coniglio, who emphasized staff at the hospital is talented.
“We have cared for this client population for many decades. Many of our staff have been here for many years and are experts and are trained in working with these type of patients.”
Coniglio wouldn’t comment on Finch’s call for the hospital to be put under the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s jurisdiction instead of the health ministry except to say, “It is treatment in a health care setting that is secure.”