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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The province plans to hire 320 protection service officers for select hospitals in B.C., though none in the northeast region.

Under the ministry of health’s new security model announced, 14 violence prevention leads will also be hired.

The violence prevention leads and the officers will be placed in hospitals across the province to help create a safer environment for staff and patients.

According to the Ministry of Health, the personnel will receive training in workplace violence prevention, mental health, advanced customer service, and trauma-informed practice training.

Liberal health critic Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, said this is a step in the right direction, but there are concerns.

“There are many hospitals that will not have the protection model in place, and that’s a concern as we’ve travelled across the province,” she said.

“We’ve heard from people in every part of British Columbia, nurses and other healthcare professionals, about the concerns they have about their workplace.”

Bond said they are concerned that many facilities will not see the same level of security.

She added that the information they have is that only three officers are being assigned to the Northern Health region.

The three hospitals chosen to receive the new staff are Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.

“Healthcare workers need to be safe wherever they work in British Columbia,” Bond said.

“When I was visiting the Peace earlier this year, we heard all kinds of concerns about workplace culture and safety. It is more difficult to retain and recruit nurses to the parts of the province where we live.”

Bond said she thinks it’s important for people to understand why those sites were selected in Northern Health and to know when the next phase of this rollout is coming.

“When will other hospitals in places like Fort St. John and Dawson Creek get the same kind of consideration?” She asked.

“What we want to see is that this is not a one-time announcement, that, in fact, we are going to see this kind of step taken in all of the places where nurses and healthcare professionals need a safe workplace.”

Bond said she will be asking why those sites were chosen and what the plan is for facilities with no protection service officers.

She said she will be looking at the effectiveness of this rollout.

“From my perspective, it’s good that we’re going to have trained people who have trauma-informed practice training to make sure that they’re able to help de-escalate and be there when their services are needed,” Bond explained.

“I view it this way: an announcement is one thing, implementation is something else.”

The security model will reportedly be done through the SWITCH BC (Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Healthcare) organization.

The provincial government is providing an additional $2 million to SWITCH BC to address workplace safety.

The new funding is in addition to the $8.5 million over three years announced in 2019 to establish SWITCH.

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.