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Creating Designated Areas for Illicit Drug Use at Hospitals

British Columbia is planning to designate spaces for illicit drug use at hospitals in response to concerns from unions and opposition politicians about patient consumption of illegal drugs and nurses being exposed to drug-related risks.

The province will convene a task force to standardize provincial policies across health authorities, Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a press conference this week.

The policy will set ground rules for patients on where they can use illegal drugs—either in designated spaces within a hospital or in a space created on a hospital’s grounds, according to multiple media reports, including The Globe and Mail.

“The reality is, we have, on any given day, hundreds of people in our hospitals who face severe addiction issues.” Mr. Dix said, according to the Globe, adding, “As a practical matter, we want to ensure everyone knows what the rules are everywhere.”

The Epoch Times contacted the B.C. Health Ministry and the B.C. Nurses Union for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

The announcement by Mr. Dix comes days after B.C. Conservative MLA Bruce Banman questioned why patients were allowed to consume drugs like meth while nurses are fired for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

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“We found out that you can smoke meth apparently in the hospitals, that’s allowed, but if you refuse to get the jab you get fired,” Mr. Banman said on social media. “How is that healthy to anybody? It makes no sense.”

Mr. Banman’s statement was in reaction to a leaked memo that allegedly called on hospital staff in B.C.’s Northern Health region not to confiscate patients’ drugs or weapons.

During question period in the provincial legislature April 4, BC United MLA Elenore Sturko linked the NDP government’s decriminalization policy for illegal drugs with the use of illicit substances in the province’s hospitals.

“Nurses face a daily reality of drug-fuelled violence, from having drug smoke purposely blown in their faces to being kicked, punched, shoved, and even stabbed while bathrooms are being lit on fire,” Ms. Sturko said.

Mr. Dix said in the legislature that “possession and use of controlled substances are prohibited for all clients in emergency departments, any unit where clients under the age of 18 are present, inpatient psychiatric units, and inpatient withdrawal units.”

“This is just a fact,” he said. “It is absolutely prohibited to have weapons in hospitals.”

While B.C.’s drug criminalization pilot is expected to expire in 2026, the issue has become central ahead of the provincial election later this year, with B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad and BC United Leader Kevin Falcon both saying they will take action against the policy if elected.
Coinciding with the decriminalization policy, the B.C. Coroners Service reported in January that the province saw a record-breaking number of deaths linked to illegal drug use: 2,511 overall.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said fentanyl was the main driver of fatalities with the province seeing an average of seven drug-related deaths per day.

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