No one is to walk alone on the grounds of Cowichan District Hospital — not even from their car to the front door — in the wake of an unspecified number of sexual assault reports.
A memo sent to hospital staff from Island Health on Nov. 18 doesn’t get into the specifics of the allegations or state how many have taken place, but advises staff and the public that the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment is investigating in conjunction with the hospital’s Protection Services personnel and other Island Health staff.
“At this time, staff and the public should not be unaccompanied outside the building for any reason,” the memo said. “When you arrive at work, remain in your vehicle and call [the hospital] for the auto-attendant, then [call] protection services dispatch to request an escort.”
“Visitors will also be instructed to contact protection services to be escorted to the hospital from their vehicle,” the memo said. “Marked protection services vehicles will be parked at various locations across the site and the RCMP will provide an overt presence with up to 60 foot patrols daily. We encourage all staff who may be isolated or working alone inside CDH to discuss the working alone process with their supervisor.”
The memo said additional protection services staff have been called in to support enhanced patrols of the hospital property.
“As your leadership team, it is of utmost importance to us to ensure the safety of all our staff, medical staff, patients and visitors who attend our site,” the memo said. “The purpose of this memo is to advise you about this serious matter and, more importantly, to provide you with information on what we are doing to ensure your safety and what supports are available to you.”
The memo said staff who use public transit will be offered taxi services at the main door to the hospital. It also stated staff and visitors can expect to see signs posted at exits and entrances in the hospital advising of the safety measures.
The memo said that if anyone has information about the alleged assaults or other similar incidents at CDH, to contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522.
“We will do our best to keep you updated with as much information as possible,” the memo concluded.
RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau confirmed that the RCMP are investigating. Elin Bjarnason, Island Health’s vice-president of clinical operations for the south Island, said the safety of the hospital’s patients, visitors, staff and medical staff is paramount and of the highest priority.
“We are cooperating fully with the RCMP investigation,” he said. “I encourage any member of the public or staff who may have been assaulted or have any information to contact police or reach out to site leadership.”