Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley has called for security at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital to be strengthened, with changes made to the way security personnel are hired.
Earlier this week, the hospital introduced temporary changes to its security, bringing in officers with extra training and adding an officer to the emergency unit.
The department of health says these changes will last until a full set of recommendations comes back from an independent security specialist, who examined the hospital earlier this month.
Bromley, jumping ahead of those recommendations, made some of his own.
In a motion delivered at the legislature on Monday, he asked that the health department:
- clarify procedures for Stanton employees to follow when violent incidents occur, including procedures expressly for the use of physical restraint;
- direct Stanton management to hire security staff with recognized training in non-violent crisis intervention and physical restraint techniques;
- ensure security personnel are hired as government employees, rather than contracted agency workers.
“Contracted security workers are not adequately trained to protect workers and property,” argued Bromley.
“Cost should not be a factor when it comes to job safety. Retention of well-trained and experienced security personnel becomes paramount and would be imminently doable if a routine provision was put in place.”
Bromley believes job stress at Stanton is leading the territory to lose medical staff. He blamed lack of government action.
“Recently a violent patient initiated incident left three healthcare workers injured and thousands of dollars of property damaged,” he said.
“An unacceptable level of confusion remains over legislation and policy provision to support physical interventions when necessary. I know the minister has tried to clarify this, but this certainly needs immediate resolution.
“Threats to Stanton Territorial staff are real, immediate and quantified. The time for study is over. Staff are being physically and mentally harmed and there are serious vulnerabilities with potential for much greater harm. Action is clearly needed now.”
A number of MLAs rose in support. In response, health minister Glen Abernethy said he “absolutely agreed” that healthcare professionals in the territory need a safe workplace.
“I don’t agree that non-violent crisis intervention is not the appropriate philosophy for our facilities,” said Abernethy, “but I do agree that it can’t work unless it includes proper training, clear expectations about the performance of security guards and clear procedures for dealing with situations where violence escalates. Stanton is currently taking steps to make the improvements in this particular area.”
Abernethy rejected the suggestion that contracted workers cannot provide adequate security, but added: “Stanton and the security contractor are exploring how training for security guards can be improved to help them respond to a situation where an individual becomes aggressive, violent or difficult to manage.
“This level of response is one of the gaps that we are working to address.”
Abernethy said the health department will now look at the possibility of appointing security staff as full GNWT employees.
“The cost of bringing in a security team as full-fledged employees of the GNWT could be incredibly expensive and could take away from some of the program areas we are also delivering, but we will do the work,” he said. “We will do the analysis. I think it’s worth it.”
Bromley’s motion passed with seven votes in favour and seven abstentions.