City council to meet with Island Health to discuss solutions to discarded needles

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Parksville city council will meet with Island Health officials to discuss solutions to address improperly discarded hypodermic needles in parks and public spaces.

The city received a letter from James Hanson, vice president of clinical operations for central and north island, that acknowledged a mistake was made and council was not invited for an earlier meeting.

“They say that they want to work with us and they put forward their objectives but continue to ignore ours,” said Coun. Adam Fras. “I can’t help but think that perhaps it was intentional that we weren’t invited. They describe it as a mis-step without any explanation.”

Mayor Ed Mayne wrote a letter last fall to express his disappointment with provincial ministry of health’s rejection of a city bylaw that would regulate needle distribution.

The bylaw proposed more controls on needle distribution, including a rule that no more than 10 clean needles can be handed out unless the recipient returns an equal number of used syringes. 

It also would have required those supplying the needles to be properly trained and registered by the city. The bylaw would have also required all needles handed out to be retractable or “needleless syringes.” 

The bylaw defines retractable as “a needle with protective features that result in the device being blunt after use,” and needleless as “a syringe which uses the force of the liquid under pressure to pierce the skin.”

“The use of retractable hypodermic sharps in the harm reduction context is not possible as this type of sharp is not part of the provincial harm reduction supply from the Provincial Health Services Authority for a variety of reasons, including their unsuitability for harm reduction supplies, their lack of support among user groups, and their high cost,” Hanson said in his letter.

He also said Island Health is interested in working with city staff to deploy sharps collection containers, as well as helping to fund the cost. Hanson offered to have Dr. Sandra Allison, medical health officer for central island, make a presentation to council focused on prevention and education within the context of children and youth.

Council voted unanimously in favour Mayne’s motion to meet with Hanson.

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