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IMG_1392%20copy.jpgMore than 100 health care workers, a municipal councillor, CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn, OCHU president Michael Hurley and members of CUPE 786 gathered at the mountain campus of St. Joseph’s Health Care in Hamilton for a  community memorial rally in memory of Michael Brewer who was tragically beaten to death on May 23, 2012 by another in-patient at the hospital’s forensic unit.

OCHU has written Ontario’s Chief Coroner asking for a public coroner’s inquest into the death to investigate the underlying systemic conditions at St. Joseph’s – including safety and risk factors – that may have bearing on the incident. “It is likely the jury on an inquest might make useful recommendations directed to the avoidance of death in similar circumstances,” wrote Hurley in his letter to the Chief Coroner.

St. Joseph, like many other Ontario hospitals, is “suffering from Ontario government policies that erode care in all hospitals  – policies that include lower funding levels and cost-cutting for health services generally,” Hurley said.  These policies are creating unsafe environments for both patients and hospital staff. While a coroner’s inquest may not suit the government, we believe that it is in everyone’s best interest, including the hospital’s.”

OCHU and CUPE Ontario believe a public coroner’s inquest would bring a broader perspective and make significant and useful recommendations to avoid more deaths at St. Joseph’s and other hospitals.

“It’s our hope that an inquest would include an objective assessment of current staff to patient ratios and other safety factors that have bearing on this and many other dangerous incidents that occur in similar facilities across the province, said Hahn.  In offering sympathies to the Brewer family, Hahn also acknowledged “unity with all the health care workers affected by this tragic death. Our activism is in the hope that through a coroner’s inquest investigation changes will be made to health policy to prevent similar deaths throughout Ontario.”

As a symbol of grief for a life lost, but also of hope that changes will be made to prevent similar deaths, a flower memorial was left just outside the hospital grounds.