Hospital security guards increasingly using force against Vancouver patients, raising questions of care

published on November 18, 2017 by Travis Lupick, Alexander Kim in The Georgia Straight

Private security guards at B.C. hospitals are responding to violent incidents more frequently, according to statistics obtained under freedom-of-information legislation.

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Early last October, Nicholas Ellan was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital as a psychiatric patient. A family member had expressed concern for him and contacted authorities.

Thomas Kerr is associate director of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use and has published papers examining the roles of security in social services. In a telephone interview, he warned that added safety measures can have unintended consequences that are counterproductive.

“The presence of security guards can create hostile conditions which actually prompt escalations,” Kerr told the Straight. “I don’t want to take anything away from security guards, but these are not mental-health professionals. And it can be very, very challenging de-escalating somebody who is unwell and in a hospital environment.

“It raises questions about who should really be dealing with these people,” Kerr added, “and if there’s anything that security guards themselves are doing to potentially contribute to this problem.”

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