News that The Royal Ottawa hospital had been acquitted of all three charges at the end of a long and complicated “Code White” trial into workplace violence hit Vicki McKenna in the gut.
“Honestly, I felt sick when I heard,” said McKenna, vice-president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
“It’s a sad day for us. Nurses are the most injured and sickest of any workforce. That’s including construction, firefighters and police. I don’t think people know how dangerous and difficult the work that nurses do is.”
The verdict, delivered Friday by Justice of the Peace John Doran, ends a trial that dragged over 21 months and was the first legal test of “Lori’s Law,” the 2010 amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act aimed at preventing workplace violence.
The Ministry of Labour laid the charges following a July 5, 2012 attack on staff by a patient — a Code White in hospital parlance — that took place in the schizophrenic recovery unit of The Royal’s Carling Avenue campus. The man, known only as Patient X at the trial, attacked two nurses and a personal support worker, choking one woman to unconsciousness and punching and choking two others. The man was eventually subdued by a second patient who came to the nurses’ assistance.