The reorganization of Alberta Health Services means there may be less security at the Drumheller Health Centre.
The Mail has learned that coming this year, the Drumheller Health Centre will no longer have the same level of on site security service. Rather, Drumheller will be served by a mobile unit that will serve Drumheller as well as Hanna, Three Hills and Stettler. This is a concern for Judy Nelson, chair of Big Country Victim Services.
“There is no one at night,” said Nelson. “You know how the parking lot is at night, the staff always ask for an escort to their vehicle, and there is no one there for that.”
Nelson says from her understanding, it will be a one man crew that will work primarily a day shift, with the four hospitals as the person’s responsibility.
"They are going to contract security out in the bigger cities, but why not here. There is crime in the rural areas, especially with the penitentiary and the drug problems. It just doesn’t protect the nurses, our patients or anybody,” said Nelson.
She adds she can foresee problems working with Victim Services. For example, if there is a case of domestic abuse, and the perpetrator comes to the hospital there is no protection.
“I think about our victims. If things happen over there, and the RCMP are busy, you can’t expect them to be right there when something happens,” she said.
“I spoke to the head of security in Edmonton, and again it is because of the health cuts. I don’t think people realize… what is going to be happening to security,” she said.
She adds she cannot see where the savings will be realized.
“(By cutting) 300 positions in the whole province, where are they going to save dollars? Because now they are going to have to buy vehicles for all these rural mobile guys, so now you have vehicles, insurance and upkeep. I just can’t see them saving anything, and we are going to be sitting here in Drumheller with no security at all,” she said.
According to Anthony Weeks, executive director of security and parking services for Alberta Health Services, Drumheller is currently served by security at night and doesn’t necessarily need as much security as it has. In fact, many communities of like size don’t have any security at all.
“When we look at Drumheller for example, let’s say there are 39 hospitals around the province, acute care sites that would be a similar or same size as Drumheller. When we looked at them, only nine sites had a security presence on site,” he said. “So there were 30 hospitals around the province with similar hospital size and similar patient volumes that have been getting by just fine. So we looked at if we needed to add security to those 30 sites, and we found the risk wasn’t high enough. So, we went back to the nine sites that had security, and asked what makes those sites different, and we couldn’t find anything to validate a physical security need in those specific sites.”
He said all nine of the sites that had security were located in Southern Alberta surrounding Calgary. It's biggest gaps were in Northern Alberta in the former Apsen Health Region. He explains they are going to adjust their security so it serves the whole province better.
“As part of this roll-out, we have redeployed our resources so there is a better balance of access around the province for all 39 of those sites,” he said.
According to Weeks, they are doing this through the establishment of a provincial security operations centre that will give all of the sites 24/7 access by phone to a call centre that can dispatch the police. They are also implementing mobile patrols.
“At the end of the day we have determined, based on our risk assessment, based on patient volumes, based on peer hospital comparisons, we don’t require physical security at those locations,” he said. “What we have determined is there are local police to help in an emergency situation and there needs to be an investment in training so staff know how to defuse situations prior to calling in security, which is what has been happening at those other 30 sites.”
“We are not absolving ourselves of these sites, but we don’t have any new money, so we have to use our resources wiser and we have to look at things from a provincial prospective,” he said.