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B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake said he is still trying to find a way to release more information about the firings, but is constrained by privacy laws and a wrongful dismissal lawsuitDARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A number of assaults against health-care workers has prompted the BC Nurses' Union and the provincial government to invest $2 million in violence prevention at four high-risk hospitals.

Health Minister Terry Lake and union president Gayle Duteil have been working for months on a plan to tackle the chronic issue, and on Thursday announced that the province and union would each contribute $1 million.

"We know that violence in the health-care workplace is a real challenge, faced by many dedicated health-care workers on a daily basis," Lake said at a news conference.

"We can't accept that this violence is inevitable or acceptable, nor should we accept that there's nothing we can do about it."

The four sites to receive initial funding are the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam, Hillside Centre in Kamloops, Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health in Victoria and Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

After a violent attack on a nurse at Hillside Centre in April — the second at the centre in four months — the ministry held a summit to hear from health-care workers, unions and the industry on how to fix the problem.

Lake said the four sites were chosen because they care for some of the most challenging patients in the province, including those with severe mental health disorders and a history of violence.

Duteil said each hospital has a unique plan designed by staff. Depending on the site, upgrades over the next few months may include new distress buttons and communication systems, increasing staffing levels and improving mental health education and training.

She said a nurse who was attacked at Hillside Centre in April has returned to work, but a nurse who was savagely beaten at Abbotsford Regional Hospital in February is still recovering.

Duteil said a total of 12 priority sites have been chosen and that she hopes to move quickly to improve conditions at the eight other hospitals, but she did not provide a timeline.

"The problem is far bigger than just a dozen sites. The threat of violence is present in virtually every care setting including residential," she said.

"So while we're pleased to begin reducing the risks at these four sites, we're resolved to see the issue of violence addressed across the entire health-care system."

Sandy da Silva, regional director of tertiary mental health at the Interior Health Authority, said Hillside Centre staff were "very pleased" with the announcement.

She said the facility will receive better technology and security cameras, new communication and conflict resolution training and more staff, especially for the night shifts.

The changes are supposed to be fully implemented by next March, but da Silva said she hopes to have many in place by December.

"We need to give it a fair shake to prove that these changes will make a difference in the future," she said. "I'm really aiming for a rapid turnaround."

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