IN LOVING MEMORY OF ASHLEY SMITH: Psychical torture practiced in Canada by oppressors of the government institutions and private consortiums, no less vile than any other kind of torment, intended to destroy psychologically and keep their victims silent.
We appeal to the courage and conscience of the human rights organizations, international community, democratic governments from around the world and global media, to condemn the crimes against humanity that has been committed and continues committing in psychiatric hospitals and detention centers in Canada.
Violence at new psychiatric inmate facility draws ministry concerns
Nurses who have faced homemade weapons blame design of Waypoint, a new hospital for men with a history of violence.
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The patient emerged from his room carrying a sword, and the nurses put on their riot gear.
The two-foot blade was bent 90 degrees, and a two-inch screw had been fashioned to the top. He made the sword from materials he found in his cell at Waypoint Mental Health Centre, the province’s sterling new state-of-the-art psychiatric facility.
This incident, detailed in Ministry of Labour inspection reports, staff memos and internal emails, is just the latest in a string of workplace violence claims that have prompted the ministry to investigate the province’s only “maximum secure” forensic mental health hospital, the Star has learned.
“The Ministry of Labour is aware of and is investigating complaints of workplace violence at this facility,” ministry spokesperson Janet Deline said in an email to the Star. She confirmed the ministry has investigated 20 events — including complaints and injuries — since the facility opened last year.
Waypoint, which overlooks Georgian Bay in Penetanguishene, Ont., opened in May 2014 with a price tag of $474.1 million, a joint project by Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The 160-bed Atrium Building holds male patients charged with violent crimes who have been found not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial due to serious mental illness. It replaced Oak Ridge, a more traditional prison-like structure built in the 1930s to provide custodial care to the “criminally insane.”
“We don’t disagree that there have been challenges with our new building and everyone, including our senior staff and board, is aware and concerned,” Waypoint’s director of communications, Laurene Hilderley, told the Star. She said the administration has already addressed many concerns about the new campus, spending $1 million since the opening on enhancements to patient rooms, fencing, lighting, doors and camera systems.
Health ministry spokesperson David Jensen told the Star “it was of paramount importance to Waypoint that the new facility would maximize the quality of life for their patients in a respectful and secure setting.”
This philosophy, said registered practical nurse John Wardell, has contributed to the Atrium’s design flaws and technological problems, escalating the danger for nurses in an already high-risk environment.
Wardell worked at Waypoint for more than 17 years, serving as president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 329 for the last three, till this summer. OPSEU is currently in contract negotiations with Waypoint.
“The hospital has lost sight that these particular patients have violent tendencies,” he said, adding they cannot be safely managed in other public institutions. “The public would like to think that once someone has medication in them, they improve. Some people in this facility do not fit that mold. They are not treatment-responsive.”
Certain patients, no matter where they are, would always find a way to make weapons, he alleged, but in the Atrium, they can find the tools to do it.
Spokesperson Tonya Johnson said the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has received 107 claims from Waypoint staff since opening. Twelve incidents stemming from assaults, violent acts or harassment resulted in lost work time.
The Star has found claims of numerous serious incidents since May 2014. For example:
Three days following June’s sword incident, a provincial inspection found “the patient was able to destroy their room to the point of accessing metal supports from behind the drywall, including the removal of a towel rack, and proceeded to construct weapons out of these materials.”
“The patient was yelling from his room … there would be a bloodbath,” one employee said in an email describing what staff saw that day.
“I believed that the door would not break and everyone would remain safe so I was completely shocked and taken aback when the staff member yelled he’s out … I truly feared for my life.”
Talks between OPSEU and Waypoint broke off late Tuesday, amid heightened union concerns around safety.
“It is a continued pattern of this employer refusing to work with the union to resolve these problems,” said Greg McVeigh, the Local 329’s staff representative. “These things don’t happen when everything is hunky-dory.”
“The general consensus,” said John Wardell, “is someone is going to get killed in here.”
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses”
.- Malcolm X