'Angry and insulted': B.C. nurse speaks out after workplace assault, racist remark
A nurse working in one of B.C.'s short-staffed hospitals is speaking out after she says she was assaulted by a patient who made a racist remark.
Arlene Tedjo was working in the emergency department of Kamloops' Royal Inland Hospital Saturday when the RCMP were called in to respond to a man whose behaviour Tedjo says escalated to the point where it was dangerous and unmanageable.
In an interview with CTV News Channel she described her experience. At first, the patient was unresponsive, but was roused by Tedjo. Several minutes later, when she walked by the incident, unfolded.
"That individual purposely waited until I was walking past to kick my leg with the intent of tripping me," she said, adding he nearly struck another co-worker.
"I stumbled and then he said to me, 'I don't know how they do things in your country' implying, first, that I'm not from this country and being racist towards my level of education and professionalism … I'm angry and insulted because firstly, I am Canadian and I am trained as a Canadian nurse. It should not matter if I was born here or not."
The Kamloops RCMP confirmed they were called to the hospital for reports of an assault and took one man into custody. Tedjo says the man's condition was stable at the time. He has since been released with a promise to appear in court at a later date.
Interior Health told CTV News via email that the incident took place in the emergency room and involved "a patient and two staff members."
"Staff members received support onsite and finished their shifts as scheduled for the day," the health authority said. "Procedures are in place to respond to such incidents and follow-up is ongoing."
'SICK AND TIRED OF WORKING IN UNSAFE CONDITIONS'
But Tedjo says the incident is indicative of the dire and widespread issues plaguing the province's health-care system as a whole, saying frontline staff are faced with ever-mounting pressures. This weekend, for example, she says the department was operating with just over 50 per cent of the staff required.
"We are all working over time. We are understaffed. We are under-supported on a daily basis. We're going through a global pandemic, through extreme heat waves, another wildfire season -- on top of that we're getting verbally abused and physically abused, which sadly isn't new," she said.
"We're sick and tired of working in unsafe conditions and can't cope with being the one that everything falls on to anymore."
A shortage of nurses is one issue Tejdo points to, compounded by the fact that nearly one million British Columbians do not have a family doctor. The lack of accessible, available primary care, she says, is putting more pressure on emergency departments. Further, closures of emergency departments in smaller communities means more patients are being told to go to cities like Kamloops to seek care.
"A lot of the health-care workers are compensating for the systemic failures that have been occurring for a long time," she said.
"So after this happened, I had to collect myself, continue working because there was a lot of people that still needed to be seen and we were short staffed."
She also said she hears from colleagues across the country who are working in similarly stressful and increasingly unsustainable conditions.
"It is the same story of disrespect, verbal, physical abuse, burnout, short-staff problems," she said.
"It's part of the reason why we're having departments closed across the country, and why health-care staff is leaving at higher rates than ever before."
In a tweet, former Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Alvin Tedjo, who is currently running for Mississauga city council, said he was left shocked and angered by the incident – wishing he could do something to help from thousands of kilometres away.
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