Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2018
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts
Page: 3


City considers ways to better protect employees and public

Victoria public works officials are examining protocols over the
handling of discarded hypodermic needles to better protect employees
and the public.

Fraser Work, Victoria director of engineering and public works, said
the city is looking at its own protocols in light of reports this
month of people encountering or being nicked by discarded needles.

"We take this issue very seriously, on behalf of our workers and the
public," said Work.

He attended a meeting on Wednesday with public health officials,
police, social service agencies and addict advocates to discuss recent
needle incidents.

Discussed were improved safety measures such as distribution of
sharps-disposal containers at the same time free needles are
distributed to drug users along with a central collection or reporting
agency to deal with discarded needles.

After the meeting, Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief public
health officer, downplayed the dangers of discarded needles. He said
the risk of infection by blood-carried pathogens is low.

Stanwick said officials worry the incidents might be part of an effort
to publicly discredit drug addicts and the harm-reduction efforts to
help them, like free needle exchanges.

In one incident, a child was nicked at the McDonald's in the 900 block
of Pandora Avenue. Police identified the person who discarded that
needle as a medical patient who acted without malice. In another
instance, a woman was jabbed when she seized a paper bag away from her

On Monday, a needle was found stuck in the soil of a downtown planter
positioned so the sharp end was pointing directly upward.

Work said the discovery of needles is a regular occurrence.

The city has about 20 sharps containers positioned around

The number of needles found loose and discarded on public space or
private property is difficult to track. At Wednesday's meeting, social
service agencies, including shelters where people regularly pick up
discarded needles, said there did not appear to be an increase.

It was agreed better data about improperly discarded needles is

Work said the city regularly deals with businesses that find needles
scattered along their frontages.

He said that discarded needles are a regular hazard for municipal
workers, those emptying trash bins, cleaning streets, tending parks,
going down manholes or working underground.

A few city employees have been pricked but none developed infections
or disease as a result, but the experience is frightening, he said.

"They were eventually given a clean bill of health but not before a
lot of stress and heartache," Work said. "It's a traumatic experience
to have to go through, not knowing and being uncertain."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt