B.C. Interior hospitals hire new security officers for emergency departments

The new officers — dubbed 'client service ambassadors' — start work this week at Kelowna General Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital, and Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Officers will be present at Kelowna General, Royal Inland, and Vernon Jubilee

New security officers will be stationed at three Interior hospitals. (CBC)

B.C.'s Interior Health Authority has hired 'client service ambassadors' in attempt, officials say, to make the emergency departments in three busy hospitals safer.

Starting Monday, the new security personnel will be stationed at Kelowna General Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Andrew Pattison, manager of protection, parking and fleet services with Interior Health, says while the new employees are security officers, they will be more casually dressed, unarmed, and integrated with the ER team.

"[They are] security officers first and foremost, but in a little bit of a non-traditional way, " he explained.

"Their main goal is to curb and reduce violence in the emergency departments through a proactive approach, a verbal de-escalation technique and general customer service."

Pattison says the officers have been hired because of aggressive incidents that have taken place in the emergency department.

Interior Health Board Chair John O'Fee agreed.

"Unfortunately, when caring for people who are in emotional, vulnerable, and [in] stressful situations, their actions can be unpredictable and may include violence or aggression," he said in a statement.

"This program is a good example of ways in which we are taking action to prevent and better respond to violent incidents."

The program has been piloted in a number of other hospitals in B.C. including St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, Surrey Memorial Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital, Pattison said.

He added Interior Health will re-evaluate the program in 12 months to see whether there has been a reduction in aggressive incidents and whether staff feel safer.

With files from Daybreak South