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Ontario Hospital Staff Report 'Surge' Of Violence In New Poll & Ottawa Is Really Struggling

59% of racialized Ottawa respondents said they have experienced racism.

Contributing Writer
Queensway-Carleton Hospital in Ottawa.

Queensway-Carleton Hospital in Ottawa.

A new survey reveals that Ottawa's frontline health care workers are experiencing a staggering increase in violence and racism this year.

This article contains content that may be upsetting to some of our readers.

According to Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) findings shared on July 6, 71% of nurses, PSWs and other hospital staff surveyed in Ottawa said they have experienced physical violence at work. That's roughly 8% higher than the provincial average from all respondents across Ontario, of whom 63% reported experiencing physical violence.

Workers also reported gender-based violence against those who identify as women, racist attacks, and incidents involving guns and knives. The rise in these kinds of incidents appears to be a trend that CUPE is reporting increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pandemic tensions and unprecedented hospital staffing shortages are fueling already high rates of violence," CUPE said.

The survey, carried out by Oracle Research from May 17 to 24, found that just under 60% of racialized survey respondents in Ottawa said they are "subject to harassment or abuse because of their race or appearance."

Of the 2,300 Ontarians surveyed, 550 workers were from Ottawa and eastern Ontario, making up roughly 24% of the poll.

Half of Ottawa health care workers said they endured sexual harassment, while 36% said they had experienced sexual assault at work. According to the survey findings, the use of guns and knives against staff is on the rise too, with 19% reporting an increase.

CUPE pointed out that if this sample were representative of the entire staff population in Ottawa hospitals, it would mean that over 17,750 local hospital workers were physically assaulted at work during the pandemic.

"The grimmest of all projections is that more than 9,504 hospital staff in Ottawa would be sexually assaulted in the workplace," added Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of CUPE's Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

CUPE estimates the data disproportionately affects women, who the organization says make up almost 90% of Ottawa's health care workers.

In order to curb the troubling trend, CUPE is suggesting a zero-tolerance policy toward violence against staff, as well as provincial funding to address staffing shortages.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, call the Assaulted Women's Helpline at 1-866-863-0511. You can also contact support services for male survivors of sexual assault at 1-866-887-0015. If you need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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