Saskatoon health-care employees anxious strolling to and from work after quite a few assaults – Saskatoon

A recent assault on a health-care provider who was forced to park off-site from her job at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) has staff feeling unsafe in arriving at and leaving work.

“I’d like to say that this is an isolated incident,” says Tanya Sheppard, medical laboratory technologist working at RUH and the Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time and likely won’t be the last time a health-care worker is harassed or assaulted on their way to or from work.”

Last week, a woman was reported to be walking to work around 5:30 a.m. and was hit by someone in the dark hours of the morning. The victim believes she was hit with a pistol.

“Our concern is that if it happens, when it happens again, the assault is going to be much worse and one of our members or health care workers is going to end up being a patient. That’s unacceptable,” said Barbara Cape, SEIU-West president.

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“These are pretty high-traffic areas where the hospitals are, and incredibly vulnerable populations are visiting there. This is going to happen again. This is not fearmongering. It is just a statement of fact.”

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) West is bringing attention to the lack of parking for hospital staff. They say this has been a problem in the area for 20 years.

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“Parking at Saskatoon’s three hospitals is an issue that existed prior to the Children’s Hospital being built and wasn’t fully addressed when the building was constructed,” said Cape. “If Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon is the trauma centre for northern and central Saskatchewan, then we need to consider these additional needs when we are funding public infrastructure.

“Our members are demanding this be addressed. We’ve suggested a Park and Ride option and a safe walk/ride option, but ultimately, we need to build a staff parkade,” Cape said. “We need some options that keep our members safe and respect the neighbourhoods’ needs for residential parking.”

Parking at the hospital campus is usually reserved for visitors, with a two- or three-hour limit. The wait-list for staff parking is approximately one year long.

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Some of the staff have a half-hour walk from their vehicles to the building, in the dark, each day or are required to return to their car every two hours to move it to a new space — an impossible option for those in surgery or tending to urgent patient needs.

The assault has been reported to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

“Unless there is a strong will from the SHA and the government to prioritize the safety of their staff, patients, and visitors to our hospitals beyond the walls of the facility, then these issues will persist and have the potential to get worse,” said Cape. “We want both the government of Saskatchewan and the SHA to be an active partner with the health-care unions to improve safety for everyone. It’s long overdue.”

Cape said she would like the public to hear from some of the assault victims personally, but with the extreme short-staffing in health care right now, she is not able to pull anyone off the job.

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