Long-term care workers face daily violence: Study

Incidents include hitting, pinching, biting and spitting

A staggering number of long-term care workers suffer violence on the job, according to a new study.

The York University study of workers at 71 unionized long-term care facilities in Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia found 43 per cent of personal support workers endure physical violence from patients at work on a daily basis, while 25 per cent face it on a weekly basis.

"Canada's levels of violence towards long-term care workers are significantly higher than the other countries we looked at. The situation is out of control," said Pat Armstrong, a professor at York University and co-author of the study.

The study shows Canadian long-term care workers, 95 per cent of whom are women, are nearly seven times more likely to experience daily violence in the form of physical assaults, unwanted sexual attention and racial comments than workers in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Those countries were chosen for comparison instead of the United States because, like Canada, they have public health care, said Armstrong.

The study establishes a correlation between levels of violence and heavy workloads. The main difference between Canada and Nordic countries is staffing levels.

Typical physical violence includes being slapped or hit with an object; being pinched or bitten; pulling hair; being poked; being spit on; and twisting a worker's wrist.

Unfortunately, most violent incidents go unreported, said Armstrong.

"Workers are afraid to report violent incidents, fearing that they will be blamed. Or they simply don't have the time to do so. Alarmingly, workers inform us that they are expected to take such abuse. They are told to 'lighten up,'" she said.

The study also found 30.1 per cent of long-term care workers experienced unwanted sexual attention on a daily or weekly basis.

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