Vancouver Island nurses told not to intervene if they see illicit drug use in hospitals

As the addiction crisis rages on, an Island Health memo distributed last month reportedly instructs nurses not to stop illicit drug use in hospitals.

Vancouver Island nurses told not to intervene if they see illicit drug use in hospitals
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A March 12 memo sent to acute-care staff on Vancouver Island instructs nurses to allow patients to openly use illicit drugs in hospitals, according to reporting from the Times Colonist.

The memo reportedly even tells nurses to teach patients how to more effectively inject illicit substances into their veins using IV lines.

“Instead of requiring patients to stop using substances when they access care or services, a harm reduction approach offers ways for care to be provided,” the memo allegedly says.

As reported by the Times Colonist, the memo instructs nurses to at first evaluate the safety of the situation if they encounter a patient using illicit drugs. This includes looking out for flames, a potential overdose, or unruly behaviour.

If the situation appears "safe," nurses are told to leave the area where the drugs are being used and return five minutes later to "reassess" the situation and talk with the patient.

BC United shadow minister for health Shirley Bond spoke about the memo during a recent question period. “Nurses are told to train patients on how to inject illicit drugs into their veins through IV lines,” she said.

“They are told to create a plan for substance use during admission. They are told to facilitate patient-identified substance use goals by providing burner kits with crack pipes and matches,” she added.

Despite the memo, B.C. health minister Adrian Dix has declared that illicit drug use is not permitted in hospitals in the province.

B.C. became the first province in Canada in 2023 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs. The pilot project allows adults to carry up to 2.5 grams at a time of drugs like methamphetamine and heroin.

2023 also saw at least 2,511 deaths linked to toxic drugs in B.C., a grim record for the province. Premier David Eby continues to defend the pilot project.

As reported by CityNews, Eby recently spoke about decriminalization: “We give people the opportunity to get into treatment by saying, ‘You’re not a criminal, I’m not going to arrest you and put you in jail for having the drugs you’re addicted to.'”

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