THUNDER BAY — Facing a worrisome rise in violence against staff in the emergency department, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre decided to bring in police officers, starting last summer, to increase security.
Since July 2022, the hospital has paid Thunder Bay police to provide this service, and the move appears to be paying dividends.
According to preliminary data, the hospital has found that even though the number of visits to the emergency department has gone up, there's been a reduction in the number of "behaviour incidents."
Statistics were not provided, but a spokesperson told TBnewswatch the hospital is currently conducting an evaluation of the impact of the strategy, and collecting more data for analysis.
The hospital also uses security guards.
The spokesperson said having a security and police presence on-site in the emergency department "facilitates a safe and supportive work environment, enabling staff to focus on patient care."
It's costing the hospital $2,045 per shift or approximately $60,000 a month if police officers fill all shifts.
The cost fluctuates depending on need, resource availability and security staffing.
The hiring of police is one of several measures the hospital has implemented over the past year in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders in response to violent incidents in the emergency department.
The situation got much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting hospital CEO Rhonda Crocker Ellacott to declare that it was unacceptable, and that "we need to make sure this does not continue."
Besides increasing security, the hospital has stated that expanded staff training opportunities and health human resource roles – including peer support worker, social worker, and Indigenous patient navigators – are aimed at improving workplace safety in the emergency department.
For the Thunder Bay Police Service, assigning officers to work at the hospital has generated revenue that's had a favourable impact on the police service's budget.
A report submitted to the police services board this week noted that in 2022 "paid duty activity was much greater than estimated" because of the hospital's request for assistance.