BC Nurses’ Union concerned with rise of illicit drugs, weapons inside hospitals

Click to play video: 'Leaked Northern Health memo raises questions about illicit drug use in hospitals'
Leaked Northern Health memo raises questions about illicit drug use in hospitals
Question Period in the Legislature erupted today over a leaked Northern Health memo advising nurses not to stop patients from using illicit drugs in the hospital. As Aaron McArthur reports, the province says the memo is outdated, and drug policy is clear – Apr 4, 2024

Hospital staff, including nurses, are concerned with a perceived rise in illicit drug use and weapons inside hospitals, according to a memo obtained by Global News.

The Northern Health memo directs nurses and staff on how to deal with illicit drugs in hospital settings. They are told not to measure, weigh, or test the substance.

Nurses also have no responsibility to monitor substances or quantities for legal purposes and should avoid contact with unknown substances.

The BC Nurses’ Union told Global News very few health authorities are making their employees feel safe, and if concerns are raised, they’re not taken seriously.

“Decriminalization doesn’t mean that consumption should take place in a hospital setting. I think that just needs to be considered and needs to be addressed,” Adriane Gear said, with BC Nurses’ Union. “Ultimately, from our perspective for our members, this is becoming a health and safety issue.”

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Click to play video: 'Data from B.C. drug decriminalization pilot released'
Data from B.C. drug decriminalization pilot released

The safety of nurses and patients in B.C. hospitals was a hot topic at the legislature, as well.

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“The BC NDP has created a free-for-all for open drug use, shockingly, even within our hospitals,” Shirley Bond said, BC United Health Critic.

The opposition has highlighted their perceived downside to B.C.’s drug decriminalization and has alleged patients are using hard drugs, including smoking fentanyl and meth inside hospital treatment rooms.

One example, they said, someone was smoking meth just hours after the birth of a newborn baby exposing hospital staff and other patients.

“How many more nurses have to be put at risk and infants exposed to illicit hard drugs in our hospitals before the premier puts an end to the reckless decriminalization experiment?” Bond questioned.

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“Ending this program won’t save a single life in this province,” B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside responded.

Nurses have also reported they’re seeing a surge in weapons making their way into hospitals along with the increase in drugs.

The memo also directed staff to not confiscate weapons if they are found.

Click to play video: 'Northern Health memo highlights concerns with illicit drugs, weapons inside B.C. hospitals'
Northern Health memo highlights concerns with illicit drugs, weapons inside B.C. hospitals

Global News spoke with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix on Thursday, and asked for his reaction to the union and opposition’s comments.

“With respect to weapons … not allowed. Period,” Dix said.

“And with respect to smoking (in hospitals), it’s not allowed at all. That doesn’t mean that these rules are never violated but what it does mean is that they are clear. The direction is clear (and) the rules are straightforward.”

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Dix said the province has “dramatically” increased security at hospitals at the request of health-worker unions, and he doesn’t expect hospital staff to put themselves in harms way enforcing policies.

“They’re very significant challenges. Not everybody follows the rules and that presents real difficulties,” he said.

“The rules are straightforward and that doesn’t mean there easy to enforce.

“We take every step to ensure that our nurses and health-care professionals are not peace officers, they are health-care workers.”

Click to play video: '‘Absolutely frustrating’: B.C. minister disappointed with public drug use injunction extension'
‘Absolutely frustrating’: B.C. minister disappointed with public drug use injunction extension

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