Gun pulled on security guards at Health Sciences Centre

A man pulled a gun on security guards after they escorted him out of the Children’s Hospital, in what the guards’ union says may be a new level of violence at the Health Sciences Centre.

Incident may be the 1st time a gun has been pulled on security guards at the hospital, union says

The union representing security guards at Health Sciences Centre has called for its officers to receive enhanced legal status to intervene in violent situations. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

A man pulled a gun on security guards after they escorted him out of the Children's Hospital in what the guards' union says may be a new level of violence at the Health Sciences Centre.

On Saturday afternoon, security guards responded after a "Code White" incident, which indicates some form of violent disturbance in the hospital.

"HSC Security detained one person per Winnipeg Police Service instructions and escorted an additional person out of HSC Children's [Hospital]," a spokesperson for Shared Health said in a statement to CBC News.

"Once outside the building at the 820 Sherbrook [St.] Loop, the person pulled out what appeared to be a firearm and pointed it at the security officers. The suspect then ran off."

Security guards locked down the area, keeping bystanders away, while Winnipeg police officers secured the neighbourhood, the spokesperson said.

A suspect was identified using surveillance video and police are investigating, the spokesperson said.

Police confirmed they received a report of a male possibly armed with a gun, but no arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing, a police spokesperson told CBC News.

Security guards at the hospital have dealt with escalating levels of violence in recent months, but this latest incident may be a first, said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union.

Guns removed in the past

"This incident was like no other," she said in a statement to CBC News. "This may be the first time that HSC security officers have had a gun pointed at them, though they have removed many guns and other weapons from people in the hospital."

Gawronsky renewed a call for security officers to be granted enhanced legal status "so they can do what they need to do, without fear of repercussions, to uphold safety in our hospitals."

The union has long said security guards haven't been given the authority or clear direction on when to intervene in violent situations.

The provincial government passed legislation giving security guards in hospitals and other institutions authority to detain people and enforce provincial laws, said a spokesperson for Health Minister Cameron Friesen. It will go into effect at a later date, once guards are trained.

"Our security officers can and do use reasonable force when that's required and obviously within the context of the legal framework. And that's the same legal framework around reasonable force that applies to WPS," said Ronan Segrave, HSC chief operating officer.

"We do have a highly skilled, highly trained, highly professional security service."

Security officers can intervene when individuals act violently, but they must adhere to the same standard as police officers: any force must be reasonable and proportional to the scenario.

"We have made very extensive efforts over the last number of months to enhance our security and safety both within buildings and specific hospital buildings right across our campus," said Segrave. 

HSC has issued panic alarms to staff, which when set off emit a loud noise. (Jason Empson/CBC)

Health Sciences Centre has introduced initiatives to improve security in recent months, including increased patrols, restricting visiting hours, and issuing panic alarms to staff, said Segrave. 

That resulted in a 39 per cent drop in security incidents requiring intervention in December and 66 per cent in January compared to the same months the previous year.

The hospital has also increased security in the adult emergency department and Women's Hospital, and is working to improve security at the Crisis Response Centre, the Shared Health spokesperson said.

With files from Ian Froese and Alana Cole