The BC Nurses Union is calling for a review of security at South Okanagan General Hospital after nurses early this morning were left to “hunker down” while a patient “rampaged’ through the facility.

“They did not know where this patient was,” said Union president Gayle Duteil, who calls South Okanagan General her home hospital. “There’s no security at anytime at SOGH. We have no Code White team — we have no Code White capacity.

“Our Code White at South Okanagan General Hospital is 9-1-1.”

That 9-1-1 call came this morning just before 4 a.m. after a male patient became upset and rampaged through the hospital’s administration and medical records departments before barricading himself in an ER room.

“He then escaped the building by breaking a window,” said Ms. Duteil.

 

Interior health confirmed the incident in an email from South Okanagan’s Health Service Director Deb Runge:

“We can’t provide further information about this patient incident except to confirm that RCMP were involved,” she wrote.

“We are grateful that no staff were physically harmed during this incident. We have debriefed with the staff members that were on shift and we will continue to offer our support as needed.”

Ms. Runge added the hospital implemented a number of security measures in December — including limiting access to certain parts of the hospital with card access readers and doors in several areas, upgrading and replacing security cameras and adding a second viewing monitor and speakers.

Staff have also completed personal safety and online violence prevention training, she noted.

It’s important to recognize this is an isolated incident,” wrote Ms. Runge. “We have contacted WorkSafeBC and, as with any incident, we will be conducting a review to determine if there’s anything further we could be doing to improve safety and security at this site.”

But the BCNU suggested ER violence is not as isolated as the health authority says.

“In the last two months, in Interior Health, we have had a shooting in an emergency department (Grand Forks), we’ve had a four-hour lockdown in an emergency department (Kamloops) and now we have South Okanagan General with a seriously violent individual ripping apart the department,” she said.

“What this shows us is that violence against nurses “is not a VGH or Surrey Memorial type of situation.”

The security measures added in December, she noted “were only put in place last year because of the construction of the prison.

“But as we saw last night, if somebody wants to get somewhere, they can.”

RCMP Cpl. Christina Tarasoff said a suspect was arrested after he “fled the hospital on foot and was located a short time later in Oliver.”

“He was actually arrested under the mental health act and was transported to Penticton Hospital. Our investigation is ongoing and charges are being considered.”

None of the hospital staff involved in the incident were physically injured, but Ms. Duteil says that’s just a small part of the damage such an event can do.

“Nurses were supposed to go home and sleep today and come back to work,” she said. “This is very traumatic; it’s very difficult on the nurses and doctors.

“In this incident, nobody was hurt physically — (but) I can assure you those nurses were scared.”

 

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