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Addictions specialists at hospitals among plans for B.C.’s drug-use ban

The government has listed 7 actions the Health Ministry plans to take ‘to make hospitals safer’
The Kitimat General Hospital and emergency department. (File photo)

In-person addictions specialists at large hospitals and virtual clinical consultation at regional and rural hospitals are just some of the several steps the Health Ministry plans to take amid B.C.’s move to ban public drug use.

The Health Ministry is planning to take several actions to combat drug use in hospitals as the premier says the government “leaned too heavily on the idea that public intoxication could have been used as a tool” in decriminalization.

On Friday (April 26), Premier David Eby announced his government’s plan to ban drug use in public places – with use in hospitals being specifically highlighted after months of pushback, most notably from B.C. United.

Part of this move, he said, was “the quickly escalating situation on the ground, particularly in relation to hospitals, and use in restaurants, where it became clear that even the authorities that we’d attempted to impose at the provincial provincial level would have to be expanded further.”

READ MORE: B.C. to ban drug use in public spaces, including inside hospitals

Health Minister Adrian Dix said these changes are critical.

“We’re going to change what’s clear in the hospital, that everyone who comes to the hospital needs to know that there is a prohibition on the on the use of illicit substances,” he said.

“We know that many people will come to the hospital dealing with serious addictions, and they need to deal with addictions under the direction of medical supervision of health professionals, doctors and others.”

The government has listed seven actions the Health Ministry plans to take “to make hospitals safer and better manage addictions for patients,” but staff will not be searching people for drugs. That includes:

• Take consistent action across B.C. to prohibit drug possession, use and purchasing of illicit drugs in hospitals or hospital sites

• Improve how patients with substance- or opioid-use illnesses are supported toward treatment and recovery services

• Add in-person addiction specialists to large hospitals and virtual clinical consultation in smaller regional and rural hospitals

• Remain focused on a culturally safe approach to implementing change

• Actively address unacceptable behavious such as aggression, non-compliance with policy and drug dealing in hospitals through additional security

• Introduce improved education and awareness efforts to better equip and support staff facing unsafe situations

• Ensure existing overdose prevention sites are working for people

But the Hospital Employees’ Union is calling for the government to scale up the seven actions as quickly as possible.

“Through the Minister’s task force on drug use in health care, we will continue working with health employers and the government to implement the necessary solutions that best respond to the ever-evolving challenges of the toxic-drug crisis,” spokesperson Lynn Bueckert said.

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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