Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia wants to beef up security at hospitals

The fact an armed man was able to walk into the emergency department at a hospital in Middleton earlier this month has sparked a formal review of security at Nova Scotia health facilities.

Premier Stephen McNeil pledges changes after armed man walked into Middleton Hospital

The Nova Scotia government said Friday it wants to beef up security at health facilities. (Contributed)

The province is bringing together hospital administrators, nurses and police to come up with a plan to beef up security at health facilities across Nova Scotia.

The review has been sparked by an incident where an armed man was able to walk into the emergency department at Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Middleton unchallenged.

At a new conference at Province House Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil noted the need to make hospitals as secure as schools.

"You go across our province, if there's an incident in any of our schools we can lock them down in a hurry to make sure we protect our children. In our health-care facilities that's not the same," he said.

"This incident highlighted that there is a potential risk that we need to address."

Premier spoke with nurses

On Oct. 3, an armed man walked into the emergency department of Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Middleton. (Google Maps)

McNeil said he has spoken to some of the nurses who were on duty when the armed man walked into the Middleton hospital.

"I can tell you their reaction, I'm not sure my reaction would have been the same," he said. "They were 100 percent focused on the people in that hospital that particular day."

Following the Oct. 3 incident, Mark Baltzer, 60, of North Kentville was charged with possession of a firearm while prohibited, unauthorized possession of a Remington .22-calibre rifle without a licence and careless use of a firearm.

He is undergoing a 30-day psychiatric assessment at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, called the level of violence faced daily by health workers unacceptable.

"I've been punched. I've been hit. We all have."

Panic buttons

Hazelton said giving every nurses a panic button they can carry with them to notify others in the case of an emergency is one thing that can be done. She'd also like hospital records to flag patients who have been violent in the past.

"If someone's discharged from a facility, that has violent tendencies, when I plug them into my computer at a different facility 200 miles down the road, that should pop up," she said.

"I'm very pleased with the commitment of this government," she said. "I'm very pleased with the personal commitment of the premier to make sure that this gets done and gets done quickly."

​The committee is charged with reporting back, with recommendations, by the end of the year.

The province has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars studying, then beefing up security at the Nova Scotia legislature. (Jean Laroche/CBC)