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Unknown substance closes down section of B.C. hospital, impacts staff health

After the incident, Interior Health said several staff reported feeling unwell and some presented to the ER.
Staff had to close down an area of Penticton Regional Hospital after an unknown odour was detected.

An investigation is underway at the Penticton Regional Hospital after an unknown odour was reported coming from a room last week.

Interior Health confirmed in a statement to Castanet that on April 7, staff had to close down an area of the hospital after the unknown odour was detected.

"While substance use is suspected, we are still investigating," IH added.

The area was closed to staff and visitors and a patient was relocated to an adjacent room, and increasing ventilation and adding air purification units.

"Any incident involving illicit substances in a hospital is concerning and our priority is the health of all impacted individuals and determining what took place. We appreciate the quick response from our hospital staff when the odour was detected," IH said.

After the incident, IH said several staff reported feeling unwell and some presented to the ER.

"It is important to stress that smoking is not permitted on any Interior Health properties and we have protocols in place to keep staff and patients safe when an incident like this occurs," they added.

"Interior Health has existing policies in place to guide staff in dealing with individuals who smoke any substance (i.e. tobacco, cannabis, or illicit substances) on IH property. We also have staff protocols to protect themselves from smoke/fumes with personal protective equipment."

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said a task force is working on determining one set of rules around illicit drug use and weapons in hospitals to eliminate any ambiguity among health-authority policies in the province.

The direction comes after a Northern Health memo was leaked last week directing hospital staff not to search or seize patients’ drugs or weapons with blades less than four inches long, or restrict visitors who bring to patients drugs for personal use.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union reported prohibitions against smoking in hospitals are not being enforced.

This included a Victoria General Hospital nurse reporting that nurses have seen habitual illicit drug use by patients in hospitals and a Campbell River nurse reported being exposed to street drugs in hospital on six occasions.

Interior Health stated that staff have the ability to remove belongings from patients if they have concerns that continued possession poses a safety risk.