Manitoba

Security hired for Winkler health facilities after city bills Southern Health for police time

Security is being enhanced at two Winkler-area health centres after the Manitoba city billed the regional health authority for the cost of devoting police officers to watch a mental health patient for six straight days.

Province announces 2 guards will be on staff 24-7

The province has announced two security guards will be shared between Boundary Trails Health Centre and Eden Mental Health Centre 24-7. (Google Street View)

Security is being enhanced at two Winkler-area health centres after the Manitoba city billed the Southern Health regional health authority for the cost of devoting police officers to watch a mental health patient for six straight days.

In February two Winkler Police Service officers were forced to stay with the patient, who had been brought to the Boundary Trails Health Centre for an involuntary medical assessment, because the health centre did not have the capacity to assess the patient.

Rules under the Manitoba Mental Health Act that say an officer or qualified person must remain with someone taken into custody for an involuntary medical examination until an assessment is done, the person is admitted, or the person doing the examination says it's not necessary.

The city sent a $19,000 bill for the officer's time to the health authority.

On Friday the Manitoba government announced two security guards will now be shared between Boundary Trails Health Centre and Eden Mental Health Centre in Winkler on a 24-7 basis.

The guards will be placed at Eden, but will respond to Boundary Trails Health Centre, just east of Winkler, when needed.

Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen announced two security guards will be shared between Boundary Trails Health Centre and Eden Mental Health Centre Friday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"We know that a lack of proper system planning in Manitoba's health-care system has created inconsistent security standards from one health facility to the next," said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen in a release.

"We are responding to this historic imbalance by reviewing security at health-care facilities throughout the province, listening to concerns raised and, in the case of Eden Mental Health Centre, establishing a flexible, deployable security team that will improve safety for clients and staff."

The cost of the security contract will be split between Southern Health and the Eden Mental Health Centre.

'That just wasn't fair'

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder told CBC News February's incident was the final straw in an ongoing problem with officers from the small city's police force devoting too much time to security at the Boundary Trails Health Centre.

"The thing is, the RHA is a provincial organization. It is not funded by local taxpayers," Harder said last week.

"We felt that that just wasn't fair, for us to absorb the costs of doing this."

The bill to the health authority was the result of "years of neglect and refusal to do anything" about the security issue, he added.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder says the city has had ongoing problems with officers devoting too much time to security at the Boundary Trails Health Centre. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"The security issue has been brought up for years. We've had meetings for years and it simply hadn't been dealt with," Harder said.

"It is not the City of Winkler's responsibility to pay for the RHA [regional health authority] lack of investment with its security."

As well as sending the bill, the City of Winkler joined East St. Paul in co-sponsoring calls on the province to "expedite implementation of 'qualified persons' at health-care facilities" and "provide a safe and secure area at a health-care facility for persons in custody while awaiting examination and/or assessment."

In March Friesen announced a safety and security review of all Manitoba health-care facilities and a bill introduced in the legislature in April tackles the issue directly by creating a new type of security officer for places such as hospitals.

When proclaimed, it will give institutional security officers the authority to enforce provincial laws when the security of people and property are at risk.

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Lara Schroeder

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