Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Patient Tasered in hospital charged

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BRANDON -- Staff members and patients at the Russell Health Centre are still rattled by an incident on Tuesday when a patient became so violent he had to be subdued with a Taser.

Along with commending staff members for acting quickly to prevent further harm, Prairie Regional Health Authority CEO Penny Gilson said counselling and stress debriefing are being offered to those involved.

"We had an unfortunate, unexpected incident of violence, which involved the need for RCMP response," Gilson said.

"Right now our major concern is ensuring staff and witnesses involved get the support they need.

"We are listening to the staff and figuring out if there's anything we can learn from this incident that will help us in the future," she said.

Russell RCMP were called to the health centre at 5 p.m. Tuesday and arrived moments later to find a man threatening staff and patients.

Police said the man attended the hospital seeking treatment for unspecified injuries sustained in an early-morning snowmobile crash.

A doctor and at least two nurses were treating the man when he suddenly became violent and left the room.

It's alleged the man later assaulted a young girl and chased another child in the hospital. Afterwards, he threatened nearby patients.

The motive behind the assaults is still unclear but substance abuse is considered to be a factor.

"Certainly this is a situation where things can change very quickly for us from a policing perspective and we were very concerned about the public's safety in the hospital at the time and we can only commend the nurses that did a fantastic job out there," RCMP Sgt. Line Karpish said.

"The moments it took us to get there they were dealing with the situation and can certainly be credited for preventing further injuries."

Craig Allan Huntinghawk, 43, of Waywayseecappo First Nation, faces nine charges in relation to the Jan. 1 incident, including aggravated assault, assaulting a peace officer, two counts of assault, mischief, failing to abide by a bail order and uttering threats.

He remained in custody Thursday.

Karpish, who said the investigation is ongoing, added that although RCMP responded within minutes, for those involved, a few minutes can feel like an eternity.

"It seems like a long time for those that wait for us," she said.

"In the grand scheme of things, it was only a few moments, so clearly they were quite pleased when our members got there."

Gilson said hospital procedures across the region are always being looked into.

"We have been looking at this for a long time," she said. "Especially isolated rural environments to ensure staff have the best possible security in any and all circumstances."

A similar incident was reported in March 2011 when a nurse was attacked by a patient at the Hamiota Health Centre. It was alleged a man locked two nurses in a room and assaulted one of them before fleeing in a stolen vehicle.

The man was later arrested after the vehicle was spotted on Highway 83.

Following the incident, panic alarm systems were installed at the Hamiota hospital and other security changes were made to rural hospitals across the Westman region including room-by-room assessments, environmental changes and the installation of safe rooms.

Staff members are also expected to carry a communication device with them at all times.


-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2013 A4

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