Healthcare workers and family members hold up phones as they attend a vigil for Dr. Walter Reynolds, a 45-year-old father of two, who was killed at a walk-in clinic earlier this week, in Red Deer, Alta., Friday, Aug. 14, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta doctors want safer workplace after killing of physician in Red Deer clinic

Dr. Walter Reynolds, a 45-year-old father of two, was attacked by a patient wielding a weapon

A central Alberta doctor says some clinics have stopped allowing patients to carry bags and backpacks since a family doctor was killed on the job last month.

Dr. Walter Reynolds, a 45-year-old father of two, was attacked by a patient wielding a weapon at a walk-in clinic in Red Deer, Alta., on Aug. 10. Deng Mabiour has been charged with first-degree murder. He is to appear in court this week.

Dr. Peter Bouch, who knew Reynolds, says members of the Red Deer Primary Care Network have set up a committee to work with Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety in an effort to make clinics safer.

Some clinics, he says, are already asking patients to leave their bags at the front desk and, going forward, there need to be standards for how to manage difficult patients who might be demanding, aggressive or suffering from mental illness.

“There’s no way we can completely stop an event like what happened,” Bouch told The Canadian Press.

“Even though this was a rare thing physicians and their staff are vulnerable every single day.”

Bouch said the committee is to met with professionals that have expertise in workplace safety. He hopes there will be a list of general recommendations within the next six months.

The president of the Alberta Medical Association says Reynolds’s death highlights the need for changes to make the profession safer across Canada.

“The horrific attack on Dr. Reynolds has highlighted the issue of safety in physician offices and other practice settings. It’s essential that physicians, staff and patients are safeguarded. This is a large and complex issue that no single party can address on their own,” said Dr. Christine Molnar, a diagnostic radiologist and nuclear medicine specialist based in Calgary.

Molnar said the medical body’s healthy working environments advisory committee will discuss whether there’s an expanded role for the association in the area of safety and workplace violence.

She said it’s not just a problem in Alberta.

“I have been speaking with the Canadian Medical Association and my counterparts at the provincial and territorial medical associations and there are concerns on a pan-Canadian basis regarding everything from physical security to psycho-social safety.”

Alberta’s health minister has called Reynolds’s death a terrible loss. But Tyler Shandro stopped short of saying anything would be done by the government.

“Family physicians are part of the front line of health care. They put themselves at the service of every patient in need, but that should never mean being exposed to violence,” Shandro said in an email.

“The RCMP have confirmed this was an isolated incident and indicates no increased risk to the people of Red Deer.”

Shandro suggests physicians or others with concerns about their security should contact the RCMP’s victim services division.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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