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Better protocol needed to protect healthcare workers: Nurses Union president

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union says better controls, and protocols are needed to keep weapons out of healthcare facilities, and keep staff safe
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The president of the province's nurses union is raising red flags over the safety of healthcare workers, saying more security measures are needed.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says they are working with partners to ensure safety of workers, and that work is ongoing. Janet Hazelton says there have been instances in the past year where loaded guns and knives have been discovered in backpacks, or in the pocket of a patient.

She tells NEWS 95.7 there needs to be a better protocol.

"We have no ability to know what someone's coming into our facilities with, you know, you can go to a hockey game, you have to go through a scanner, you get on an airplane, you have to go through a scanner," explains Hazelton. "That's not the case in any of our facilities."

Hazelton says she will be bringing it up with the NSHA.

"It's just another item that we're gonna have to add to our agenda, and make sure it gets done," states Hazelton.

She adds "we need to start talking about when there is a weapon, how do we deal with it? We don't even know if we have the right to remove it, or take it away."

Hazelton says unfortunately, those kinds of conversations need to be had, and at this time, the only recommendation in a dangerous, or potentially dangerous situation is for nurses to call 911.

"I don't think there's clear protocol, certainly my suggestion to nurses would be absolutely call the police," says Hazelton.

She says an incident last year in Middleton sparked fear in the community.

"A person had a semi automatic [gun] loaded in a knapsack in our waiting room at emerg, and that sparked a whole deep conversation, and a lot of good work was done," she says.

Hazelton adds at this time, hospitals are not as safe as they could, or should be.

"Sometimes we have people that, because we have drugs, we have narcotics, and they know we have narcotics, we attract drug seekers, sometimes I mean, so it's a concern for sure," says Hazelton.

The NSHA says they are continuing to educate staff about violence in the workplace, and work is being done to establish a workplace incident reporting system.

Meantime, Katrina Philopoulos, provincial manager of occupational health safety and wellness, says they're continuing to look at ways of maintaining a culture of safety in the workplace.

"One incident is too many so it is concerning to us," she said. "But really we're trying to look at all hazards and incidents that happen to our staff."

Philopoulos says they are already looking at current policies in place, working with best practices and environmental scans to collect as much information as possible.

By doing so, Philopoulos hopes they can mitigate the risk of violence in the workplace.

Matthew Moore

About the Author: Matthew Moore

Born on Cape Breton Island, Matthew is a reporter and weekend anchor for NEWS 95.7 and
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