Hospitals: security guards demand more training and resources
The suicide of a lady, the madness of a patient constantly trying to escape, the marked presence of heavily intoxicated people. Security guards in hospitals are called upon daily to intervene in particularly difficult situations. However, agents deplore a lack of access to training that they consider central to perform their work properly, especially in a psychiatric environment and emergencies.
“The agents are sometimes covered in the field,” says Marc-Antoine St-Pierre, who works at Pavillon Albert-Prevost, the mental health unit at Sacre-Coeur Hospital. He denounces a situation of psychological stress such that colleagues left their job after barely three days.
“We do not know how we will go out psychologically and physically [of our days],” says Pierre-Charles Guindon, an officer at the University Hospital of Montreal (CHUM). A former agent in the event industry, he “learned on the job” how to intervene in hospitals.
Budget restrictions would relegate the importance of training hospital security staff to the background, says Patrick Pellerin, President of the United Steelworkers Union for Quebec. The management of hospital safety is “left to the discretion of hospital directors,” he says. It describes a situation in which hospitals award security contracts to the lowest bidders without regard to the allocation of specific funds for training.
“The contract is awarded to the lowest bidder that complies with the requirements of [the Act respecting contracting by public bodies],” says Marie-Claude Lacasse, a public relations officer with the Department of Health and Social Services (MSSS).
In addition to obtaining a work permit, as well as a few hours of familiarization with the premises, no mandatory training is specific to the health sector. “The MSSS does not have uniform guidelines,” says Marie-Claude Lacasse. It is up to the institutions themselves to manage the training of those they employ, she adds.
For the officers on the ground, the risks are mainly related to the instability of the people present and the high accessibility of the places.
“We work with the multipockets of life. If someone wants to hit, we can not do much. ”
– Michel Marceau, security officer
Michel Marceau worked for a few months at the Montreal General Hospital, where recent reports of a feeling of insecurity among hospital staff and the presence of street gangs were reported.
Security guards have the same rights as any civilian and can use force only in cases of self-defense, where their physical integrity or that of another is compromised. They usually do not have any additional enforcement tools.
However, training exists to prepare stakeholders to act with aggressive patients, but it is not mandatory. Named Omega, it was the subject of positive reports, especially when it was given to employees of the Montreal Institute of Mental Health.
“It’s supposed to be all the employees who got it, Omega, but there’s so much turnover that sometimes it’s just a quarter of the employees who have the training,” says Marc-Antoine St-Pierre, who has more than seven years of experience.
“Omega, it’s expensive, but it should be mandatory! “Explains Isabelle Bouvier, who has been a safety officer at the Cite de la sante and at the Saint-Jerome hospital.
The training, given by the Joint Association for Occupational Health and Safety of the Social Affairs Sector (ASSTSAS), costs between $10,000 and $15,000 for a duo of trainers to be accredited. These two people can, in turn, give lessons to all their colleagues. Accredited people to donate Omega are present in 25 of the 34 hospitals in Quebec, says ASSTSAS. Too few, judge the agents met.
“There are agents who are not trained at all. ”
– Patrick Pellerin, President of the United Steelworkers
Mr. Pellerin believes that the Committee on Standards, Equity, Health and Safety (CNESST) should look into this issue.
“No way can be imposed by the inspectors to employers,” says Alexandre Bougie, CNESST spokesperson. He said that the CNESST can decide on the presence of a risk and suggest possible solutions.
GardaWorld and the Commissionaires du Quebec, the two main security agencies hired in Quebec hospitals, are giving up responsibilities related to apprenticeship. Training like Omega must be done at the request of the hospital, says Cedric Dyevre, account manager at the GardaWorld office in Montreal. “It really is according to the requests of the customers [the hospitals],” adds Sylvain Lacaille, Commissionaires du Quebec.
Presence on the ground
In addition to training issues, compliance issues related to the equipment provided are reported by field officers. “There is no line drawn by the government on equipment and training,” says Pellerin of the United Steelworkers.
The hours and the number of agents in the field are also pointed out by agents. “We were three agents, now we are only two. On lunch hours, we find ourselves alone, “says Mr. St-Pierre, agent at the Albert-Prevost Pavilion at the Sacre-Coeur Hospital. For three years, the budget in security of this hospital stagnates. This is the case for several hospitals in the metropolitan area.