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Only 4 of 334 'protection officers' have been hired for B.C. hospitals


Only four of the 334 “protection officers” announced for British Columbia hospitals in October have been hired, with most not expected to be on the job for months to come, CTV News has learned.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced funding for 320 officers and 14 violence-prevention leads in what he described as a new security model to “anticipate, deescalate and ultimately prevent” violence against health-care workers and patients.

This week, the Health Ministry confirmed that only four leads have been hired, all of them in the Lower Mainland. In a statement, a spokesperson said that “significant progress is being made on the development of a training curriculum for the new (protection services officer) positions”, which won’t be ready until spring and that “hiring is expected to begin in the coming months.”

The timeline comes as 20 B.C. hospitals are operating as Emergency Operations Centres, which is essentially an internal state of emergency to handle current and anticipated high patient volumes.


Under the emergency operations centres, hospital administrators have the tools and authority to make rapid assessments of resources and discharge patients to make room for more, all while responding to packed emergency department waiting rooms.

The BC Nurses' Union believes those conditions, combined with staffing shortages, creates a tinderbox environment in hospitals.

“There definitely will be conflict because families may advocate for their family member, saying they do not have the resources or the time or the capacity to take care of their loved one, or the patient may not want to go feeling they're not ready,” said Aman Gewal. “When you are dealing with emotions, it can get heightened so I do see there could be an opportunity for that.”

She revealed that in the past two weeks, two nurses have been attacked at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, with “improvised weapons” made by patients.

“People do not realize what nurses have to deal with on a daily basis and the injuries that they incur from that,” said Grewal. “You shouldn't have to fear for your life or physical harm going to work in a hospital setting, or any health-care facility.”

Vancouver police say they don't keep statistics for assaults on hospital property, but that they investigate and regularly meet with Vancouver Coastal Health representatives on issues that include safety.


CTV News made several attempts to discuss details of the rollout of the security officers and to determine whether anyone was overseeing the program and coordinating implementation.

The Ministry of Health told CTV News that its intention was for each health authority to employ their own staff, and that they are “still finalizing what the PSO reporting/management structure will look like.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority, a government body that oversees province-wide programs including cancer treatment and BC Children’s Hospital, revealed that a little-known agency within their purview will be involved in coordination.

“Integrated Protection Services (IPS) supports the improvement of security and safety at our sites as a result of this initiative,” wrote a spokesperson in a statement.

Last February, the head of Lower Mainland Integrated Protection Services gave his first media interview to CTV News, explaining they would be conducting security reviews after two “code black” threats against Metro Vancouver hospitals. Jonathan Acorn and his team are responsible for overseeing security at hospitals and medical facilities in the region. Top Stories

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