Rise in meth-related violence prompts review of security at health facilities

In response to an increase in methamphetamine-related violent incidents at provincial health facilities, Manitoba’s government plans to review the security services offered at facilities to determine trends, needed improvements and identify why there are multiple locations that have no security services.

The review will start with the six major hospitals in Winnipeg

The provincial government will review the security services offered at each facility to see what needs to be improved following a surge of meth-related violent incidents. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

In response to an increase in methamphetamine-related violent incidents at provincial health facilities, Manitoba's government plans to review the security services offered at facilities to determine trends, needed improvements and why there are multiple locations that have no security services.

The government will announce the first stage of its plan on Monday, which is the review of the security security services at Winnipeg's six major hospitals.

The review is a response to an escalation of violence, which doubled at some facilities in Winnipeg over the past year.

"No Manitoban would deny that there is an increased prevalence of methamphetamines in our communities. The causes of violence and security-related concerns in our facilities for health care are numerous and complex but meth is obviously part of that equation," Health Minister Cameron Friesen said.

"Meth is a horrific drug that has horrific effects on the user and psychosis is one of those horrible effects and that has impact and implication in our health facilities. That's why we're responding."

Friesen said some rural hospitals, such as Bethesda Regional Health Centre, have absolutely no security. The same goes for personal care homes and clinics.

"Now that raises questions," he said.

"What we have now is not the result of coherent system planning. Our response to security needs has always been reactive in this province."

The details of the first stage of the review were released in a request for proposal issued last week by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority on behalf of the Manitoba government.

Review violent incident data

The first part of the review will focus on the six hospitals in Winnipeg — Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface, Grace General Hospital, Seven Oaks, Concordia and Victoria General Hospital.

Numbers from the WRHA released earlier this month show a drastic rise in violent incidents reported at major city hospitals.  

From October 2016 to October 2018, there were 175 violent incidents reported at Grace Hospital, and 444 at the Health Sciences Centre, says data from the health authority.

The next two phases will focus on personal care homes, Access centres and Winnipeg clinics, while the third phase will look at security at hospitals outside of Winnipeg in the other four regional health authorities.

The second and third phases will only be considered after completion of the first phase.

"We will start it from a vantage point of system security, effectiveness, efficiency," Friesen said. "Are we keeping people safe?"

The request for proposals notes that Manitoba has seen a significant surge in the use of crystal meth in past two years and this has resulted in an increase in patients reacting violently towards staff.

"Which is creating serious impacts on the delivery of health care," the RFP states. "Violence demonstrated by psychotic individuals is incredibly difficult to predict and to manage."

The Manitoba Nurses Union has been lobbying for a provincial strategy to address the safety concerns raised by its members across the province.

Last summer a video was released showing three security officers and a nurse being attacked by a patient at Health Sciences Centre, which heightened calls from the union to deal with safety issues.

The CBC obtained this footage of an incident that occurred at the Health Sciences Centre on Aug. 31. 0:18

Winnipeg MP Doug Eyolfson tabled a petition earlier this month calling for a federal strategy to address growing violence against Canadian health-care workers.

"It's something that's been going on for years, and has been more or less accepted as part of the health-care environment," said Eyolfson, the Liberal MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

"But it's been increasing tremendously over the last few years."

The RFP will assess the security program for each site and its staff, and look at security incident data.

It will also look at staffing levels, security systems such as entrance control and trends in violent incident reporting.

The final report with recommendations to government is expected to be completed by June 7.

Frontline workers look at who's most affected by meth addiction and tackle some of the myths around meth psychosis. 2:58

About the Author

Kristin Annable

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Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

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