HSC replaces access screeners with private security


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Local health-care facilities have been phasing out COVID-19 screeners at their entrances over the past few months. At Health Sciences Centre, the move means 32 term employees will be out of work next week.

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Local health-care facilities have been phasing out COVID-19 screeners at their entrances over the past few months. At Health Sciences Centre, the move means 32 term employees will be out of work next week.

The term and casual employees were given four weeks’ notice their contracts would end Jan. 19, Shared Health stated.

Visitors to the downtown Winnipeg hospital will no longer be asked about their symptoms or viral exposure. Instead, security guards provided by a private firm will be stationed at HSC entrances, Shared Health confirmed, stating they are “responsible for managing entry points to the facility. They will work in alignment with our existing security staff to act as an initial point of contact for those entering the facility.”

Such screeners became health-care facility mainstays in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Active screening was removed according to expanded provincial requirements in the fall, Shared Health stated.

“As COVID-19 has evolved, so have provincial screening requirements. As a result, entry to health-care facilities was expanded in the fall of 2022 to allow for additional visitation and to remove the active screening (questions about symptoms and exposure) process. With the conclusion of active screening, the requirement for dedicated screening personnel has also ended and casual and term employees have been notified of the end date for their contracts,” a Shared Health spokesperson stated.

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault said the four weeks’ notice the employer provided occurred five days before Christmas.

The union was informed contracted security guards would help control access to the hospital in the short-term, without being given a specific timeline, she said Friday.

The union doesn’t want private security guards to assume the role of screeners; if that happens, it will file a grievance, Boissonneault said.

“For health-care workers, the pandemic isn’t over,” she said.

“The health and safety of health-care staff and patients should be the priority, and our screeners help make sure everyone entering a health facility keeps the site safe,” Boissonneault said, adding in-house HSC security staff “are uniquely qualified” to work in a hospital setting.

“We need these workers to be in-house security, who are trained specifically for a health facility, and are accountable to the public — and not a private company.”

Meantime, one of the term employees at HSC said they haven’t been screening for COVID-19 symptoms for several months. Their duties involve asking visitors to sanitize their hands and put on medical masks.

It’s the same “access control” duties for which private security staff will soon be responsible, said the source, who is still looking for other work and asked to remain anonymous. “They are taking over our jobs.”

Screeners were part of the information-paging department at HSC, but the private security guards won’t have knowledge of the hospital or where to direct visitors, the screener said, questioning why the term employees are being let go if there’s still a need for that work.

“I’m concerned about the safety and well-being of the patients and staff at the hospital, because this security team is coming in with no knowledge or training of the hospital.”


Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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