As thefts rise, police officers called in to join the mix at St. Paul's Hospital
Uniformed officers to start hospital patrols this month
To deal with increasing thefts and drug activity at St. Paul's Hospital, police officers will be patrolling the building and hospital grounds starting this month.
Staff and patients say they're concerned about their safety, says the hospital's CEO, Jean Morrison, and the security personnel already employed at the hospital are limited.
"They have the powers to take action that our security officers don't," she told CBC's Saskatoon Morning. "To have police close at hand if an issue is going on will be a good thing."
The issues she refers to include drug activities that seep past hospital doors, purse robberies and mental health issues. The hospital is equipped to respond to sick people, not what Morrison calls "community problems."
Immediate action needed
She says she knows having officers is not ideal but is necessary as poverty and drug use have risen.
"Prevention is always the best way, but we know we're living in a situation right now where we have higher poverty rates. And people, when they live in poverty, look for a way to find money," she said.
However, not all people look at police as a means of providing safety.
RCMP officers were historically involved in separating Indigenous children from their parents in order to take them to residential school.
"We have the results of the residential school issues that cause triggers for people, and police are a trigger for people, so we haven't taken this lightly," Morrison said.
Other options are being looked at, but she said the hospital wants to see whether this helps.
Morrison says the questions they're trying to answer are wide-ranging.
"What are the effects of social issues on the street that are impacting clients or impacting people that come into our building? And how do we de-escalate behaviours that are … rising and getting out of hand? How do we support people with needs that you or I can't even imagine?"
Morrison did not say how many officers will be involved or how often, saying there are strategic times they will come in order to see what kind of illegal activity happens at different times of day.
The hospital currently has some offices for mental health workers and staff, and an emergency room liaison on site or available on call through First Nations and Métis health who helps vulnerable people and elders on site or available on call.