KELOWNA, B.C. - A severe beating inside a south Okanagan psychiatric unit that left a doctor with a broken jaw and unconscious has sparked calls for improved security from British Columbia's nurses.
The alleged attack occurred late Friday afternoon and drew police to Penticton Regional Hospital, where they arrested a 30-year-old patient, said RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur.
Charges of assault causing bodily harm and aggravated assault have been laid against Gregory Nield who appeared in Penticton provincial court on Monday, he said.
“The doctor suffered a broken jaw and other facial injuries as a result of the attack," said Dellebuur.
The Interior Health authority has confirmed there was a "serious incident" involving a patient and a doctor at the hospital Friday night, ending in the arrest of a patient, though the agency wouldn't provide details.
Dr. Robert Halpenny, the health authority's president and CEO, said no one else was hurt in the attack, and the unnamed doctor is recovering in Kelowna General Hospital.
"I visited him in hospital (Sunday) and he’s doing as well as can be expected," he said.
The nurses' union said in a news release that the patient walked out of a closed-door session with the physician and announced the doctor might be dead.
The union said the doctor was found unconscious and severely beaten.
"An experienced health care professional was rushed to hospital in Penticton Friday night, after being savagely attacked and left for dead by a patient," the news release said.
Union president Gayle Duteil said the incident shows there is a dangerous lack of security in the province's psychiatric facilities and she is demanding an investigation and changes to improve safety.
She said nurses are assaulted daily across on the province, and in November one psychiatric site reported 13 assaults.
"We're asking for security to specifically be assigned to psychiatric units, not just a walk through, but actually a security officer assigned to the psych unit," she said.
"We're asking for security cameras, were asking for personal alarms and we're asking for the appropriate risk assessment to be done."
She said a risk assessment and safety plan must be in place if the patient in question is transferred to another facility.
Halpenny said call buttons are already in place throughout the ward and Interior Health has been working to improve the security system at the Penticton hospital.
"We’re actually working to improve that call system. We’re working on the infrastructure to put in personal alarms devices," he said.
"I'm not so sure in this situation it would have made all that much difference, but it is something we’re taking into consideration."
Halpenny said in a news release that the safety of staff members is a priority, and it is investigating the incident with the RCMP and WorkSafeBC.
(Penticton Herald, CHNL)