Leaked memo shows illicit drug use inside Island hospitals, despite government denials

Leaked memo shows illicit drug use inside Island hospitals, despite government denials

Less than two weeks after the provincial government denied there was widespread public drug use inside B.C. hospitals, a new memo from Island Health on Tuesday once again confirms that is the case.

A new leaked memo from Island Health shows drug use is not only happening in hospitals but staff are also instructed to help teach people suffering with addictions how to inject drugs into their intravenous (IV) lines inside hospitals.

The memo, dated March 15, outlines care guidelines for people who use substances inside hospitals, saying the goal is to reduce stigma and “instead of requiring patients to stop using substances when they access care of services, a harm reduction approach offers ways for care to be provided whilst meeting individual patient needs.”

That includes “If encountering a patient using illicit substances… If safe let patient finish,” and “If patient has an IV, provide education on injecting into lines,” and “Offer patient a safe place to store their drugs or supplies.”

Nurses’ concerns

The B.C. Nurse’s Union says its members are getting sick from plumes of fentanyl drug smoke in hospital rooms, bathrooms and hallways.

Its called on the B.C. government to enforce the no-drug use policy, especially smoking, as well as cracking down on open drug dealing in hospitals.

Adriane Gear, president of the B.C. Nurse’s Union, says the recently leaked memo is “missing how to keep nurses safe and it does appear that it’s providing allowances for consumption within the healthcare setting.”

READ MORE: ‘Happening daily’: Vancouver Island nurses raise concerns about open drug use in hospitals

Government and critics respond

The B.C. government has been on the defensive following a similarly leaked memo from Northern Health earlier this month.

Last week, B.C.’s chiefs of police also told federal MPs that they can’t respond to drug use calls in hospitals because of the province’s decriminalization pilot project.

On Tuesday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix reiterated his plans to set up a task force to ensure the no-drug policy is clear.

“We are going to take steps to ensure the rules are understood, the rules are applied, and that protections for all patients that go into the hospital – every one of them deserves care and respect – every one of them will be enforced and applied and we will continue to do that,” said Dix.

His critics say the policy is ridiculous if there’s no one to enforce it.

“The minister can say it isn’t allowed, it is happening every single day in hospitals across the province,” said BC United MLA Shirley Bond, who is also the Shadow Minister for Health, Seniors Services and Long-Term Care.

“So when is this minister, or this premier, going to do the right thing, listen to nurses and health-care professionals and end this disastrous decriminalization?” she said during question period Tuesday.

In a statement to CHEK News, Island Health said the memo is simply a resource document, encouraging staff to proactively talk to patients to see if they are suffering addictions, if they plan to use drugs in hospital anyway, and try to mitigate the harm – including educating them about injecting into their IVs, if they insist on doing so to themselves.

Island Health argues that not talking about this issue is even more harmful, while critics say allowing it in the first place is the real harm.


Rob ShawRob Shaw

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