VSEA Welcomes VOSHA Letter To VPCH, Demanding Management Investigate Recent Worker Assaults

workplace violence

September 22, 2017


VSEA issued the following press release this afternoon:

VSEA President Dave Bellini is extremely concerned about a copy of a September 21 letter the union received today. It’s from a senior Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA) official to the Co-CEO/General Counsel at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, informing her that a “workplace hazard” was reported to have occurred at the facility on September 12 and that VPCH management now has 10 days to conduct an investigation and provide findings to VOSHA by October 5.

The September 12 “workplace hazard” mentioned in VOSHA’s letter was actually a vicious assault by a VPCH patient on three of the facility’s frontline workers and a traveling nurse. Two of those assaulted went to the emergency room with “serious concussions.” Here’s how the VOSHA letter describes the assault:

“On September 12, several mental health specialists reported increased agitation and escalation of behaviors in a patient to the charge nurses and to [the] Interim Director of Nursing. Nothing was done to address the issue or prevent staff from risk of assault. [The Interim Director of Nursing] even told one MHS [who was assaulted] in response to her asking for more help to address the issue, ‘If anyone can handle it, it’s you.’ As a result, 4 employees were assaulted and three of them were sent to the emergency room. [Two] received serious concussions and one [other] was injured as well. Another employee received a scratch where the skin was broken.”

“VSEA thanks VOSHA for its quick attention to this brutal assault on four hospital employees who were just trying to do their job, and we demand that the State and the Department of Mental Health take the necessary steps now, not tomorrow, to reduce the alarming number of patient-on-employee assaults at the VPCH and at every other Vermont health care facility…like the Vets’ Home, for example,” says VSEA President Dave Bellini. “No one should ever have to report to work every day with the very real expectation that they might be assaulted. This will never, ever be acceptable to VSEA and its members, and we trust the State and DMH agree and will work with VSEA members to end this violence against workers now.”

Bellini notes that VSEA did a public records request earlier this year and found that, in a year-and-a-half period prior to November 2016, more than 200 patient-on-employee incidents (some serious, most thankfully not) were recorded at the VPCH in files provided to the union by facility management. VSEA filed an additional records request this week to obtain records from November 2016 to present.

VOSHA Letter Here (Names redacted by VSEA to protect injured
employees’ identities)

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