The head of St. Paul’s Hospital says they’re working to improve safety for patients and families, while also taking the needs of the surrounding area into consideration.
St. Paul’s Hospital president and CEO Jean Morrison addressed safety concerns Thursday on Gormley.
The discussion was prompted after several people, who asked to remain anonymous, reached out to the show about the need for added security at the hospital following a string of recent thefts on the grounds.
Morrison noted one of the challenges St. Paul’s Hospital faces is that staff don’t always know who is there in need of help.
“We are in an area … where I would venture to say we have the highest addictions rate, some of the highest mental health rates and the highest crime rates in the city,” she said.
“So we have to always be open to consider when somebody comes to the door — are they okay or aren’t they?”
Another issue, however, is just how open those doors are. People who spoke with 650 CKOM said it feels as though anyone can wander inside the facility.
“For an emergent need, for sure the emergency is where they should go. But I don’t know if everybody really knows that or recognizes that,” Morrison said, adding the hospital has three parts to it that were built over many years.
“Certainly it was built, and entrances were set, for a different time — which does make it challenging.”
When asked about putting in more secured doors, Morrison acknowledged it’s not a simple decision.
“Every time we do that, we have to consider what the implications are, putting a secured access on there. Who needs to get through, how do we make sure all the right people have that?”
Morrison said safety through environmental design assessments are done regularly, noting improvements such as outside lighting and clearing brush.
“So that we can see what’s going on around the building and up to the building,” she said.
Morrison added the hospital is removing its glass rotunda on 20th Street for more clear sightlines and to decrease places where people may congregate.
Need for space
Morrison stressed patients receiving care and their families are the hospital’s number one priority.
Responding to concerns about St. Paul’s being used like a drop-in centre, Morrison referenced her own experience as part of a fundraising event where she spent 36 hours on the street.
“From my experience, I don’t know of a bathroom between here and confederation mall that someone who is a street person would be allowed in to use,” she said.
“When you’re looking for where to be — when you’re someone who actually is not looking for criminal things to do — the place where we spent (that) Friday evening, along with many other people, was on the grass in front of St. Paul’s.”
Morrison acknowledged the hospital isn’t the right place for this, but added, “there is no other place.”
“We don’t have 24-hour drop-in centres in this area, or places where people can be,” she said.
“On the same token, when health institutions have been found not to assess and connect people with service they need, and they ended up in an unsafe situation, the health facility doesn’t come out with a clean slate.”
She said hospital staff work with the Lighthouse, Salvation Army and their own addictions’ program to help.
“The expectation is we do get people the service they need, if they choose to accept that service. Not everyone does.”
In those cases, she noted security will speak with people to inform them they cannot stay on the premises.
Morrison said the hospital also works with the area community association and Saskatoon police, pointing to instances where officers have come in to speak with gang members about behaviour while they visit a fellow member in the hospital.
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