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Kelowna MLA blasts health minister over alleged illicit drug use in hospitals

Renee Merrifield says government’s “drug decriminalization experiment” putting nurses, patients at risk
BC United Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield in the B.C. Legislature during Question Period on April 11, 2023. (Legislature video)

Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield has accused the NDP of facilitating illicit drug use in B.C. hospitals.

During Question Period in the Legislature Thursday (Apr 11), Merrifield said the provincial government’s “drug decriminalization experiment” is also putting nurses and patients at risk.

“Often those using illicit drugs become volatile and a danger to nurses and fellow patients in shared rooms.”

The matter gained attention over the past few days following a leaked memo that outlined how Northern Health staff should deal with patients who have substance use issues.

The BC Nurses Union (BCNU) has also asked the government to protect its members and patients.

READ MORE: B.C.’s nurses support harm reduction, but call for additional safety measures

“Our work with the BCNU stands in stark contrast to the work done in the past,” Health Minister Adrian Dix replied, referring to a previous Liberal provincial government.

Dix said between 2009 and 2016 the Liberals reduced the number of registered and psychiatric nurses in the healthcare system.

He said his ministry is working with the BCNU on security issues.

“It’s why we restored SwtichBC, (Occupational Health and Safety Agency) that they (Liberals) disbanded, that works to protect nurses in the system.”

Dix added that 320 security officers have been hired within the healthcare system.

“That is precisely what the BCNU asked for.”

Merrifield said BC United has learned that drug consumption and open drug dealing are happening on the rooftop garden at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“And, that healthcare professionals are being advised not to report these activities to law enforcement.”

She asked asked Dix to confirm the reports.

“ Nobody, nobody, nobody is constrained from reporting anything to law enforcement,” Dix replied.

READ MORE: Substance exposure put 36 health workers on WorkSafeBC compensation in 2023

Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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