Security guards at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre are appealing directly to Manitoba’s Justice Minister and Health Minister to do more to help hospital staff feel safe.
680 CJOB has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Manitoba Government Employees Union (MGEU) calling on the government to take action before someone gets seriously injured.
The letter was dated Tuesday, the same day Manitoba’s Nurses Union shared startling numbers showing a 1,200 per cent rise in the number of meth-related visits, a rise in attacks on its staff, and revealed a nurse had been punched in the face last week.
READ MORE: Meth crisis in Manitoba continues to soar
MGEU said weapons are increasingly being seized at Winnipeg hospitals as well.
Hospital sources provided 680 CJOB a photo of a serrated knife believed to have been taken from a patient in June.
MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said members are confiscating so many weapons from violent patients that they’ve run out of places to put them.
“We used to have a drawer [filled with weapons], then it was a table, and now it’s a room,” said Gawronsky.
The WRHA said HSC has not seen an increase in seizures, and that potential weapons are held in a secure filing cabinet drawer not a room.
“…there is a secure drawer where confiscated weapons or devices that could be used as a weapon (bolt cutters, screwdrivers etc) are kept and numbers are consistent with our average seizures,” said Amy McGuinness, spokesperson for the WRHA.
“It’s important to note that many of these ‘potential weapons’ would be returned upon discharge.”
McGuinness said the drawer became full because it hadn’t been emptied in years, and that they “routinely dispose” of the contents now.
In the letter, MGEU notes meth is a growing part of the problem.
“We have written to request that with the increased use of meth and opioids — drug induced psychosis has resulted in a spike of violent situations involving patients and security staff at HSC,” said the letter, directed at Justice Minister Cliff Cullen and Health Minister Cam Friesen.
In June a security guard at HSC was attacked by a patient carrying a needle.
Violent behaviour has become a growing concern, the letter said.
“They are feeling pressure to intervene appropriately in situations that arise, but don’t have the authority or power to do so.”
“These officers need a more elevated legal status to allow them to intervene in violent situations with more authority.”
WATCH: Winnipeg police say the meth crisis is straining resources across the board
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the meth issue is not a Manitoba-specific problem and he is disappointed by the actions of the union.
“The MGEU is implying that security people at our facilities are not adequately trained. I can tell you that is not the case,” Friesen said.
“Security personnel are highly trained, especially at HSC. I would say that those individuals have the highest level of training.”
Friesen said security officers at the hospital are former police or military officers who undergo annual training upgrades.
“We know that we have professionals that are serving these facilities well. We care about their safety and the safety of all others in the facility,” Friesen said, adding he is giving the issue his full attention.
Global News has reached out to the WRHA for their response.