Island Health now says it was aware of an incident three months ago at the Craig Bay home where last week a community health worker was stabbed by a client with dementia.
Meanwhile, the daughter of the victim says her mother was scratched and threatened at the same house in the past and reported those incidents to her Island Health bosses.
Firearms, one not properly secured and in the same room where the stabbing occurred, were also found at the residence last week and police say an 88-year-old man has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon in connection to the stabbing.
Island Health has made some changes to the answers it provided to questions from The NEWS after the incident last week. After the story broke, a recently-retired community health worker disputed some of Island Health’s responses.
Island Health originally said “we have not received any reports from staff who are a part of the client’s care team of any potential personal safety risks within this client’s residence.”
Lynda Williams, a former community health worker (CHW), disputed that assertion.
“About six months ago, the RCMP were called by a CHW and they attended this residence and a report was communicated to the Oceanside Health Centre,” said Williams. “There were actually two complaints that came in from this residence regarding violence, at least one attendance from RCMP.”
The daughter of the stabbing victim provided even more details about past incidents at this house.
“My mother had reported to her superior two separate issues with these exact clients,” said T.J. Isherwood. “Once she had to call 911 after being scratched and a biting attempt and another time she reported verbal, threatening intimidation.”
Island Health’s media relations manager Sarah Plank provided this response through an e-mail on Tuesday:
“There was an incident on Oct. 28, 2014, which did not involve the client in question, in which RCMP were consulted related to transport to hospital. I am not able to provide further information about this due to client privacy.”
Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said police were called to the house two days in a row, Oct. 27-28, 2014. Foreman said neither call was related to the actions of the 88-year-old man and neither call involved violence.
Williams, the retired CHW, also questionned Island Health’s commitment to safety training for its workers, specifically violence-related training.
“Approximately seven years ago community health workers attended a four-hour course in violence prevention,” said Williams “CHWs expressed at that time that they would not be able to retain all the information that was provided. Supervisors stated that there would be ongoing practice at team meetings. This never happened. This course was never offered since that time.”
Originally, Island Health responded by saying it provides mandatory violence prevention training to all of our staff and work closely with WorkSafe B.C. and its union partners to ensure the safety of its staff. Plank responded to the comments by Williams this week by saying Island Health is “currently rolling out a more robust violence prevention program that includes a number of training modules staff are expected to take.”
Williams also raised concerns about the amount of information CHWs are getting about clients.
“Some time ago, information such as diagnosis and other details were stopped being communicated to community health workers,” said Williams. “The reason given was that CHWs did not need to have this information because critical thinking was not part of their job description. We were told that by nurse leaders. CHWs are concerned about this because it directly impacts care and safety.”
Plant said this week there are plans in the works at Island Health to change this policy, too.
“Prior to this incident, based on feedback from staff, a decision was made to reinstate this as of Feb. 1, 2015,” wrote Plank. “The change had been made to mitigate privacy concerns expressed by client families”
The community health worker who was stabbed last week had to use her own cell phone to call 911 because her Island Health-issued phone was being repaired. Williams, the retired CHW, said “it is misleading to say that VIHA does issue cell phones to employees because approximately 50 per cent of CHWs are not provided with cell phones. This has been continually addressed by CHWs.”
In her e-mail Tuesday, Plank wrote: “Cell phones are generally provided to community health workers who are regular staff working 20 or more hours a week.”
Isherwood, the stabbing victim’s daughter, also said Island Health has been “very supportive since this violent incident. My mother loves her job and wants to continue to work with VIHA to prevent this from ever happening again.”