Interior Health is confirming that a physician was seriously injured after he was attacked by a patient in the Psychiatric Department of Penticton Regional Hospital last week.
Interior Health President and CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny says staff immediately responded to the incident, and also requested the assistance of the RCMP.
“On Friday, one of our physicians was involved in a serious incident while providing care to a patient in the Psychiatric Department at Penticton Regional Hospital,” says Halpenny.
“Our physician was injured during this incident and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as he begins his recovery.
“I visited him in hospital yesterday and he is doing as well as can be expected.”
The patient, 30-year-old Gregory Stanley Nield, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm. He remains in police custody and will appear in court later this week.
Halpenny did not provide many details of the incident, citing privacy concerns, but did say the physician was conducting an interview, alone, with the patient around 4 p.m. It was also learned that the physician had worked with the patient in the past, without incident.
“I wouldn’t say that this patient was any different than other patient in that environment. The physician himself was comfortable to meet with the patient, so I wouldn’t say there was anything too usual,” notes Halpenny, when asked if Nield posed any sort of risk to workers.
He also would not comment on the physician’s injuries, although the Penticton RCMP has confirmed the man suffered a broken jaw and other facial injuries as a result of the attack.
“It was serious enough that he had to be transferred to another hospital,” says Halpenny, confirming the physician was taken to Kelowna General Hospital.
The hospital called in two codes during the incident – first a code white indicating violence, and then a code blue for the injured physician.
While Halpenny didn’t know how many code whites had been called over the past year in the interior, he did say IH was taking the matter very seriously.
“In 2006, we expanded our violence protection program and that is a methodology where we look at the trends and identify the opportunities, and specifically we provide education. Over the last five years we have noticed a decrease of 38 per cent in those reports of violence.”
Interior Health says they are working to improve the call system in hospitals and are working on the infrastructure to allow for personal alarm devices.
“In that particular site (Penticton Regional Hospital), we were working on the infrastructure of the cell phones and the internet upgrades, but I am not so sure it would have made all that much of a difference in this case, but it is something we are taking into consideration.”
Interior Health will now be working with the RCMP and WorkSafeBC to conduct a full review and investigation into the matter.
Halpenny says staff at the unit will be debriefed along with the staff who attended to both the physician and the patient.
“We will go through the process of looking at the series of events and that is done through the evidence act, and we work with WorkSafeBC to go through the sequence of events that lead up to the incident and then we get a report on that.”
The review will be published once it is completed, which could take several months.