B.C. taskforce will look at hospital drug use, weapons policies

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province is reviewing policies to address drug use and weapons in B.C.’s hospitals.

Dix said Friday the goal of a new taskforce will be to streamline policies so all health authorities have the same rules with regard to drug use in hospitals.

“What we see is that every health authority has policies in this respect. Some of them are pretty straight forward and clear across the board on issues such as the use of or the carrying of any kind of weapon in a hospital. Essentially, it’s just prohibited, period. And we’re going to be making it very clear, again, in case there’s any ambiguity about that,” he told reporters during a scrum in the halls of the legislature.

“There are some differences between the policies in different health authorities, and that’s why I put in place a taskforce to ensure that we have one policy across B.C. with respect to issues of people using illicit drugs in hospitals and on all of these questions … so there will be one policy.”

B.C.-wide policies vs. region-specific ones

Dix says he expects policies to be standardized and that “consistent practices are in place” across all of B.C.’s hospitals.

“And that ensures, for example, with the use of drugs, designated spaces within or around the facility, or under the specific direction of the care team. We’ll be asking hospitals and the taskforce to put that together in the next short while. I think, from my perspective anyway, the key is to keep people safe,” the health minister continued.

“The reality is, we have, on any given day, hundreds of people in our hospitals who face severe addiction issues. So, as a practical matter, we want to ensure that everyone knows what the rules are everywhere.”

More details around the taskforce and its responsibilities are expected to be provided at a later date.

“You’ll see action now. We’ve already seen action,” Dix said.

Just last week, the BC Nurses’ Union said health authorities must do more to keep hospital staff safe. This call came after BC United got a hold of a 2023 memo from Northern Health that instructed nurses to allow patients to possess and use illicit drugs and weapons in hospital settings.

The memo also stated that nurses are not allowed to remove personal items from patients’ rooms, “even if there is a knife or something considered a weapon.”

Adriane Gear, president of the BCNU, says employers must ensure appropriate policies regarding drugs at hospitals are in place, citing safety concerns for members.

“Nurses should not be put in a situation to have to search patient belongings,” she said. “That certainly poses a risk to nurses in the event that there’s a sharp object, but also, that’s not what we do.”

Dix stressed on Monday that weapons are “never, never, never allowed” in hospital settings.

“We don’t ask nurses to enforce the laws,” he added, when asked about reports of drug dealing in some facilities.

However, he admitted that there are still some challenges in certain areas.

“What we have to do is ensure that everyone as they’re admitted to the hospital, understands the rules. Because if you’re in a hospital and say you’ve broken your leg… or if you’re there for a mental health or addiction issue, you go in with your addiction and that issue isn’t going to be solved that day or two days or three days later because something else is being cared for,” Dix said.

“So, we have to be very clear in the hospital, as to the conditions in which people will use substances.”

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