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The Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid nine workplace safety charges against Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, after campaigns this month by two unions for the hospital to improve workplace safety.

The charges stem from incidents where staff were allegedly attacked by CAMH patients.

The Ontario Nurses Association first called for more safety at CAMH in the fall of 2007. The union alleges that on several occasions nurses have been violently or sexually attacked by patients.

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An attack last month, in which the union said a nurse was dragged into a washroom and sexually assaulted, prompted an ad campaign by the ONA and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The month before, there were 23 violent attacks on staff, OPSEU said.

The Ministry of Labour had asked CAMH to develop a workplace violence and policy program after last year's attacks.

This month, three union ads were placed in bus shelters near CAMH, featuring photos of women with bruised faces, to urge CAMH to follow through on ministry requests and do more to protect its staff. They caused a stir in the community, were soon after moved further from the treatment centre, and have since been taken down.

The nine charges were released yesterday. Eric Preston, CAMH's vice-president of human resources, declined comment last night.

CAMH is Canada's largest mental health facility, with some 600 beds, an emergency ward and outpatient services treating 20,000 patients each year.

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