Roving security to guard rural health-care facilities

Mobile “roving” guards will soon be responsible for health-care facility security in rural Central Alberta.

Mobile “roving” guards will soon be responsible for health-care facility security in rural Central Alberta.

Innisfail, Lacombe, Olds, Rimbey, Stettler, Sundre and Drumheller are among the sites to lose onsite security. Currently, there are one or two full-time-equivalent security guards working night shifts in each of these locations.

“Rural areas will be covered by a roving security guard, which if there’s an incident going down, and the guy is 50 miles away, that doesn’t do much good for anyone,” said Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

“So the directive is to contact the local RCMP detachment, but again, those guys can be busy as well. So it could jeopardize the safety and well-being of folks in a health facility.”

The AUPE is opposing this aspect of the consolidation of Alberta Health Services protective services, set for an April 1 rollout.

Tony Weeks, executive director for protective and parking services for AHS, says it’s all part of a balancing out of security at health-care facilities in the province.

Many northern hospitals, in particular, he said, have survived a long time without the need for onsite security and are none the worse for wear.

“Devon General Hospital, which is much larger than any of those sites, with a much higher patient volume, probably greater risk because the population’s greater, (has) no protective services staff. I can cite Fort Saskatchewan Health Centre — larger community, they’ve got a prison system right there, larger ER volumes, more in-patient beds — (has) no security,” said Weeks, explaining that hospitals that used to have no security can now access the mobile security.

“So there are people who are able to pull this off, and they’re able to pull it off because the risk just isn’t that high.”

Another change is the move to a “hybrid” security model — a mix of AHS-employed community peace officers and privately contracted security. All of the 16 security guards at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre are AHS employees and some of these positions will be outsourced to a single provincial security contractor. But AHS plans to keep the numbers the same overall, so that four guards are still on shift 24/7.

Weeks’ office is also consolidating the province’s seven dispatch centres into a single operations centre in Edmonton, where cameras will feed in from hospitals all over Alberta.

Smith said this could cause problems for security, since dispatch workers in Edmonton will have no familiarity with the “nooks and crannies” of individual hospitals and as such, their ability to respond to incidents will suffer.

But Weeks likened it to a customer service line, adding “it doesn’t matter where that is, as long as someone can make things happen for you.”