Three Winnipeg hospital security guards who had a gun pointed at them by an aggressive man took time off work after the first-of-its-kind incident, their union says.
The suspect has been identified but not yet found, the Health Sciences Centre said Tuesday — three days after guards were escorting a man out of the downtown Children's Hospital when he aimed what looked like a handgun at them and ran off.
No one was hurt, and hospital officials and union representatives praised the guards for their actions, saying they followed proper protocol by notifying police and escorting the man outside.
Little information has been released about what led to the confrontation, other than security detained one person inside the hospital Saturday afternoon and asked another to leave.
"Upon being escorted out of the building, I guess he took offence at this and pulled what is believed to have been a handgun on HSC security staff. No shots were fired and no one was injured," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver said at a news conference Tuesday.
Carver described the incident as "hugely troubling," and said the suspect could face criminal charges for pointing a firearm regardless of whether the weapon was real.
It's the first time a gun has been pointed at hospital security in Winnipeg, but staff are increasingly coming across weapons in their line of work, says the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union.
"The problem is definitely getting worse; it's not getting any better," said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president.
The union is calling on the provincial government to implement recently proclaimed legislation that gives hospital security guards more power as "institutional safety officers" under the Police Services Act. In a statement, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the government is drafting regulations for the new legislation.
"The unproclaimed legislation, without regulations, without training, it's of little use when someone's pointing a gun at you, and that is a major concern that we have," Gawronsky said.
The three security guards involved took time off work and are reportedly doing well, she said, adding staff have previously had to take weapons from patients and family members.
HSC chief executive officer Ronan Segrave couldn't confirm Tuesday if any guns have been confiscated.
"We don't collect statistics on that. Where we do come across items, such as knives... we do store them and account for that. Firearms is obviously a different matter," he told reporters during a news conference Tuesday.
"I want to stress that this is not a regular, everyday occurrence," Segrave said. "We do have challenges...things like crystal meth and other issues that are challenging to all of us in society and our environment, and we also deal with people who are homeless and may be carrying something such as a knife."
Incidents such as Saturday's, Segrave said, are "extremely rare."
All HSC staff are equipped with panic alarms and the hospital keeps exterior doors and doors to in-patient wards locked, the CEO said. The hospital has also increased patrols and upped security at the emergency room and women's hospital.
Such measures have led to a significant drop in incidents that require security intervention, he said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.