Union concerned about security privatization by Saskatchewan Health Authority

SEIU-West, a union that represents Saskatchewan Health Authority-employed security officers, said it’s concerned a report sets the table for privatization. File / Global News

The union representing Saskatchewan Health Authority-employed security officers is concerned a report sets the table for large-scale privatization of health care security.

The result of a review into security services at the province’s publicly-owned health care facilities was released on Feb. 5.

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“While there are many security challenges in a healthcare environment, we are proud of the role our security teams play to help manage those challenges,” Andrew Will, vice-president of infrastructure, information and support for the health authority, said in a press release.

“As a new organization, we are excited to be able to leverage our collective strengths to further improve security, especially with a provincial lens.”

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The report’s author, Tony Weeks with BigLeap Consultation and Advisory Services, was contracted as an external consultant to review the current state of security services. ​The review began in April 2018.

“The review explored ways of improving safety in the workplace by implementing best practices in security services,” Weeks said in a press release.

“The new security program will be built with a focus on staff and patients, who deserve the safest possible environment, free from danger or threat.”

Saskatchewan Health Authority said it spends $13 million ensuring staff and patient safety every year.

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The report highlights 27 recommendations within the context of a centrally managed security services program with the goal of ensuring a safe environment for patients, visitors, and staff.

It recommends the health authority develop a business case to assess staffing model options. The report also says exploring these alternatives will assist in selecting the best staffing approach to optimize the delivery of security services.

“It’s troubling that one of the few that the (Saskatchewan Health Authority) highlighted in the letter going to our members today is their intention to do a ‘business case review’ of the security ‘service model,’” SEIU-West vice-president Neil Colmin said in a press release.

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“We believe they think they can cut costs by contracting out to private security firms.”

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SEIU-West said Tuesday the consultant hired to conduct the review was previously in charge of security for Alberta’s provincial health authority and worked previously with Andrew Will.

According to the union, while he was in charge, in-house security officer numbers were cut, and services were contracted out to a large private security firm in Alberta’s health care system.

Colmin added, in their view, the only way to meet security needs and keep people safe is to hire and train more in-house security officers who work for the Saskatchewan Health Authority and fully understand the values and needs of the public health care system.

“The reason that is a concern for us is a safety concern,” Colmin said.

“We know that the security officers that are working in the facilities right now are trained, professional individuals who know the facility and know the people that they are working with so that provides safety for the public, for the patients, and for the workers.”

SEIU-West hopes the Saskatchewan Health Authority includes the union in the process going forward.

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One of the highlights that is key for Saskatchewan Health Authority officials is developing a provincial program for security services.

“Currently in Saskatchewan, we have a mixture between in-service delivery and contracted private providers, Derek Miller, executive director of infrastructure management for Saskatchewan Health Authority, said.

“As part of setting that provincial program and standardizing, we do need to look at that and figure out how are we going to run this in the future.”

One of the first recommendations is to develop a leadership structure, which the health authority is in the process of putting together.

-With files from Meaghan Craig

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