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Nurses' union calls for more safety measures in Manitoba hospitals

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Violent incidents are on the rise according to the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) and its president is saying enough is enough.

Darlene Jackson, the union's president, said she wants to see added layers of protection for staff and patients.

"What I hear from my members on a regular basis is, how unsafe they feel in their facility, how unsafe they feel moving between buildings, and moving to the parkade," Jackson said.

Just last week, a security guard was stabbed in the hand by a man receiving care at Health Sciences Centre.

"I think the nurses feel as if sometimes incidents are downplayed, when really, they are suffering psychologically from witnessing them or being there."

One measure Jackson wants to see put into place is safety officers at hospitals.

"We've raised the issue many, many times over the last four years and said, 'You know, where are they? What's happening? When are they going to be here?'"

The officers were first announced in 2019 under the Pallister government and changes in legislation means these officers have the power to arrest.

Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara said they could be on the job soon.

"It's going to happen this spring in our province," they said. "Beyond that, we're going to keep doing the work to make sure that we're building a culture of safety and health care. It's not just certain steps, but it's a culture of safety and respect in the workplace that our government is working with the frontlines and community to facilitate."

Another viable option according to Jackson is installing weapon scanners.

"I think in facilities where we know that weapons are coming in, and nurses are finding weapons. I think it's important that we do that and try and at least stop that from happening," said Jackson.

Weapon scanners are already being used at Ontario's Windsor Regional Hospital.

The scanners use sensor technology and artificial intelligence to identify items that may be used a threat.

The Windsor Regional Hospital said over 1,900 incidents it considers threats have been detected since the equipment was installed in October. That number includes over 1,000 knives.

"I think we're seeing violence growing at an alarming rate and I always feel like it's almost become the norm in health care now," said Jackson.

A spokesperson for Shared Health said hiring and training is underway, including a new provincial lead for protective services.

Part of that role is getting the safety officer program off the ground.

The spokesperson echoed the health minister's timeline of officers being on the job in the spring.

Shared Health is also wanting to expand the use of amnesty lockers at HSC. They are for patients and visitors to securely store personal belongings at the facility.

However, the lockers aren't well-used according to Shared Health, but they are looking at ways to increases uptake.

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