Safety and security were topics discussed about the Cypress Regional Hospital last night. 

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) Local 69, which consists of members working in Swift Current at the Cypress Regional Hospital, came together with members of Hutch Ambulance Services, the Swift Current City RCMP, and the Swift Current Fire Department to bring attention to the security issues at the hospital. 

In the last year, over 90 calls have been made to RCMP for incidents regarding violent episodes at the hospital. Four years ago, that number was in the 40s. Since this summer, two staff members have had to take time off to recover from assaults, while several others have been injured. The last incident took place only a week ago. 

Presenting on behalf of the SUN Local 69 was Rachel Hyatt-Hiebert, a registered nurse and unit coordinator in critical care at the hospital. She made an argument to the city council on behalf of others gathered for the addition of full-time security to the hospital. 

Megan Cuthbert informs city council on some of the struggles endured by local nurses. Rachel Hyatt-Hiebert informs city council on some of the struggles endured by local nurses.

"All of those you see before you have extensive experience in these settings and have witnessed how economic instability and increase in addictions and the growing mental health crisis in our city, along with other factors, has created an increasingly unsafe environment at the Cypress Regional Hospital," said Hyatt-Hiebert. "This impacts the mental and physical health of staff, along with creating a non-therapeutic environment for the patients we serve."

Hyatt-Hiebert shared harrowing stories with permission from the gathered nurses about incidents they have endured. From long-lasting pain and injuries to ruthless attacks only survived in part due to the nurse's ability to cope, and the intervention of the RCMP. 

Many of the details were basic, so as to protect patients. One thing that became clear throughout the retelling of these incidents was that in the last couple of years, nurses, paramedics, and other first responders have had to take extra care to watch out for each other at the hospital. 

Nurses are making sure that they are not working alone at night anymore. They are ensuring that when the paramedics bring in someone with a violent history, they are staying to help deal with potential outbursts. 

RCMP are called more frequently than ever to the hospital to help with violent episodes. 

Staff Seargent for the Swift Current City RCMP, Evan Gordon, shared how some of these calls, unfortunately, occur while other more prioritized incidents are taking place. This leaves nurses and hospital staff vulnerable and without RCMP aid. 

Evan Gordon sits in at the microphone to offer his point of view.Evan Gordon sits in at the microphone to offer his point of view.

"From 2019 to today, [there has been an] over 129 per cent increase in our calls for service at the hospital," said Gordon. "Those are for things like threats, assaults, assault with weapons, disturbances, Mental Health Act files, thefts and damage to property. I think the very obvious concern is the health and well-being of the hospital staff."

SUN Local 69 and its gathered bodies asked for support from the Swift Current city council, as they need to pressure the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) through which they are employed to take action. They are worried that, even though they have raised these concerns in the past, no action is being taken. 

They would at least like to see nighttime and weekend security to help them during reduced staff numbers. Right now, they have nothing of the kind. 

"Moose Jaw used to have commissioners," said Hyatt-Hiebert. "They have recently got on-site protective services. Most of the other hospitals our size do. I feel like we're getting left behind."

While Hyatt-Hiebert admits they don't see the same number of problems that hospitals in Prince Albert or North Battleford face, she doesn't want to see Cypress Regional Hospital left behind to make do because of that. 

"We just don't quite get the traction that other places do," said Hyatt-Hiebert. "I've been an ER nurse for pretty much my whole career. I remember back in the day when there was one of us on nights and I would have said that was completely appropriate. If we saw somebody after midnight, it was very exciting.

"That is not the case anymore."

Members of city council offered their support and promised to be voices for SUN Local 69 when the opportunity arose. For now, it will be up to individuals like Minister for Health, Everett Hindley to listen, and to coordinate with the SHA on finding a solution. The hope for these nurses is that it will be before this problem overloads their ability and willingness to continue in a safe capacity at Cypress Regional Hospital.