its time for answers

Health officials must act to reassure the public Copper Ridge Place is safe for its patients. And having Cathy Morton-Bielz, Health's assistant deputy minister, leave a message on a CBC Radio One's answering machine doesn't count.

Health officials must act to reassure the public Copper Ridge Place is safe for its patients.

And having Cathy Morton-Bielz, Health’s assistant deputy minister, leave a message on a CBC Radio One’s answering machine doesn’t count.

Understand that one assault in four months might be explained away as an ugly mishap. Awful, but perhaps an unavoidable occurrence in a public facility such as this.

But now we’ve learned of four assaults on three patients over the same period. That suggests there’s a larger problem with patient supervision at the facility.

This is not a criticism of staff.

There are plenty of people who will attest to the professionalism and compassion of these health workers, who are charged with the care of our infirm and elderly citizens at Copper Ridge.

But they can’t be everywhere at once. The growing number of incidents indicate staffing is probably knife-edge efficient, sufficient when everything is normal, but incapable of warding off or responding quickly to unforeseen problems on the floor.

So it might be time to add another staffer.

Or cameras.

We understand the facility is not a prison, but cameras are becoming ubiquitous in society because they are cheap and efficient.

These days, it is hard to see the harm in setting up a series of well-placed video cameras that improves oversight of patients incapable of looking after themselves.

The Lifeline system, a personal emergency system, should probably be distributed to residents of the facility.

And some of the families of the recent victims are asking what screening the facility uses when accepting patients.

We’re not suggesting the facility refuse to take dangerous patients, or those with criminal records. Or even that it restrict the use of the facility by such people.

But it seems prudent to identify patients who might, in some circumstances, pose a risk to others in the facility.

And, when patients have harmed other patients, maybe there should be a system in place to keep them under closer scrutiny.

Of course, it is entirely possible there are sound reasons – privacy concerns, legal, ethical, medical issues or simply practical problems that would prevent implementation of these measures.

The problem is the public is not being told if anything is being done.

Despite letters from family and information requests from media, Health officials are refusing to publicly address legitimate concerns and suggestions to improve the system, beyond leaving a boosterish message on a telephone answering machine.

We know this is not a prison. We know the staff are conscientious and competent. We understand that the cost-conscious department asserts staffing levels are adequate, perhaps the best in the country.

So why have there been four assaults in four months? And how does that compare to similar-size facilities in the rest of the country?

It has been more than two weeks since this issue was first publicized. It has been months since the first assault happened. And there have been several since.

Families and friends of Copper Ridge residents have legitimate concerns about safety in the facility.

This isn’t a witch hunt. It’s about improving a system that is deficient – a system in which our most frail citizens are being needlessly hurt.

It is beyond time officials stepped up and addressed the issues in the facility.

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