Meth-fueled violence leaves Calgary ER staff feeling unsafe

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WATCH: Health care workers in Calgary say they're feeling unsafe as drug-fueled violence spills into hospital emergency departments. As Heather Yourex-West explains, ERs are seeing a disturbing increase in the number of patients who are under the influence of meth – Dec 19, 2018

Calgary’s top ER doctor says emergency departments are dealing with a disturbing increase in drug-related violence.

“The city is in the throes of a methamphetamine crisis,” said Dr. Eddy Lang, head of emergency medicine for the Calgary zone. “People are using it and it’s leading to a lot of violent and aggressive behaviors that are taking a very strong toll on emergency departments and emergency staff.”

Use of the highly-addictive drug has skyrocketed in many cities across western Canada in recent months. Police said there has been an increase in the amount of meth on the street and a dramatic drop in its price — $50 a gram now compared to about $150 in 2015.

READ MORE: Prairie police chiefs, mayors plead for Ottawa’s help dealing with meth-fueled crime

People under the influence of meth often experience psychotic symptoms. According to a study published in the medical journal CNS Drugs, 40 per cent of people who use the drug will experience a condition known as methamphetamine psychosis which can lean to delusions, agitation, aggression and violence.

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“We’ve had verbal assaults,” Lang said. “We’ve had aggression that’s required security guards [to] hold patients down, hold down their arms and holding down their legs.”

While Lang does not believe the violence has resulted in any serious injuries to staff members, employees are feeling threatened.

“We are doing the best we can under this situation and that often involves dealing with sick calls from our staff because they’re often afraid to come to work.”

In an email statement to Global News, Alberta Health Services said it is committed to providing a safe environment for everyone involved.

“As part of this work, thousands of front-line staff have received non-violent crisis intervention training to help prevent, intervene or de-escalate a crisis situation safely and effectively,” the statement read.

AHS also said protective service members are in place at all Calgary hospitals and urgent care centres, and are available to respond to any incident that may threaten the safety of patients or staff.

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