Wednesday, November 09, 2005

LOCAL NEWS: Security not a major issue at long-term care facilities

Sikander Z. Hashmi

With files from James Enright

MONTREAL - Patient security isn’t a major concern despite the recent beating and subsequent death of an elderly woman at a local long-term care facility, according to the head of a Quebec patient protection group.

The 96-year-old victim died last Sunday after she was punched and choked by a 73-year-old male patient around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, according to Montreal police Constable Salvatore Serrao.

The attack took place on the fourth floor of CHSLD St. Georges on St. Urbain Street. CHSLD stands for centres d'hébergement et de soins de longue durée.

But the attack doesn’t signal a security problem at health facilities, according to Paul Brunet, Director-General of the Conseil pour la protection des maladies.

“Most places are in relative security,” he said in a telephone interview.

His group receives complaints, he said, but the complaints about violent patients are “marginal.” There are more complaints regarding inadequate services.

“Violent acts are quite exceptional,” Brunet said, pegging the estimated number of complaints about violent acts at five a year. Of course, there can be more cases of patient violence than the number reported, he noted.

While Sandra Gagné of the Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Quebec couldn’t offer statistics on staff abuse at facilities, she also doesn’t feel that security is a major issue, pointing out that attacks such as this one aren’t very common.

Generally, yes, staff are in security,” she said. “But there are exceptional circumstances that can't be foreseen.”

Staff safety is very high. There are security officials on call in facilities.”

Questions have been raised about the psychiatric state of the attacker. While Serrao said medication could have played a part in the incident, Brunet suggested the patient had special psychiatric needs.

“In terms of what we’ve seen and what we’ve heard, it seems evident that the aggressor wasn’t residing in adequate…premises,” he said, adding that while most long-term care facilities are relatively well equipped, they certainly aren’t perfect.

Dealing with psychiatric patients doesn’t mean simply putting them in isolation, Brunet said, and they deserve to have adequate care.

Gagné wouldn’t comment on the 73-year-old attacker, but said that “psychological problems play a role in violence in facilities.”

As for those concerned about the safety of loved ones at long-term care facilities, Brunet suggests action on their part.

“It’s ironic,” he said, because by paying regular visits to family and friends at such facilities, family members can “see which establishment is safe and which isn’t.”

“The best way to find out about security (is to) visit often.”

Serrao refused to disclose the identity of the victim. However, media reports have identified her as Berthe Dionne-Champagne.

Police haven’t yet ruled the death to be a homicide and are awaiting autopsy results, which were expected late last week but have been delayed.


Blogger Susanna Rose said...


I am an aspiring journalist myself and am very excited to find this site. Though I have been living in Atlanta, GA for the last six years, I grew up in Toronto and am always excited to find fellow Canadian bloggers. Anyways, I had not heard about the beating of that elderly woman. I'm glad to hear this is not a normal occurrence but it is very sad non the less!


10:55 PM  
Blogger Sikander said...


Thanks for dropping by!

12:49 AM  

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