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This article was published 15/1/2018 (941 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The president of the Manitoba Nurses Union says increased drug use has resulted in a rise in violent incidents at Brandon Regional Health Centre.
Sandi Mowat said she has heard from nurses at the hospital who are attributing an increase in the number of violent interactions they have with patients to drug use — specifically, crystal methamphetamine.
"They have indicated to me that they’ve seen an increase in those kind of issues since just this past spring of 2017."
Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that the emergency department at Concordia Hospital has seen an increase in code whites, an emergency code used to describe violent incidents, and that much of this has been connected to crystal meth use.
Mowat said this is worrying, not just for the safety of nursing staff but for the safety of patients.
She said most emergency departments in the Westman region do not have on-site security and although BRHC has security in the building, they aren’t located in the emergency department.
Even if a code white is called, she said it may take four or five people to manage a situation, and where a security team is located will determine how fast they are able to respond.
"So if there’s a violent incident and they need help, (nurses) have to call somebody. So there’s not even anybody at the time to help them."
But even though nurses are supposed to fill out an incident report whenever a patient gets violent, Mowat said it is common for nurses not to fill out a form, either because the situation was dealt with quickly or it wasn’t seen as serious enough to warrant a formal report.
However, Mowat said she encourages all nurses to file a report anyway.
Brian Schoonbaert, COO for Prairie Mountain Health, said in the last year, security officers have been placed in some locations, such as Dauphin Regional Health Centre, but not in all areas within the region.
He said anecdotally that they are seeing more drug-related cases at hospital ERs.
"The only thing that I would be a bit uncomfortable in saying is that it might be particularly related to meth," he said.
"Meth is just one of the number of drugs that we’re seeing being utilized now and obviously many of the drugs can cause the patient to become more aggressive than we would see otherwise."
However, he said it was a growing and unfortunate issue that has been happening gradually over the past couple of years.
The number of code whites or other violent incidents related to drug use were not made available, and Schoonbaert suggested filing a Freedom of Information request in order to get that data.
"We are very well aware of this situation and actually this is a big topic for us within the region and making sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our own staff, but making sure we’re providing the care that’s required."
Mowat said she hopes the issue of security in ERs will be looked at across the province.
"I think we have to recognize that drug use is becoming a significant issue and we have to look at ways to manage that."
She said the union has been working with the regional health authorities on a violence prevention program for all health-care workers, but stressed the need for more education and training on how to defuse a violent situation.
"If somebody is in a situation where they need help, are they going to get the proper help quickly?"
» Twitter: @mtaylorlee
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