July 23, 2024

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Winnipeg news: AI scanners coming to HSC

3 min read


Artificial intelligence is coming to Manitoba’s largest hospital in an effort to boost safety and stop weapons from getting inside.


The Health Sciences Centre will soon launch a pilot project using AI scanners to detect weapons at the entrances of the adult emergency department and the Crisis Response Centre. While no start date has been finalized, the hospital says this technology could be in action as early as next week.


“We have had incidents where people have brought weapons into the facility and we had a security guard injured earlier this year from one of those weapons,” said Dr. Shawn Young, the chief operating officer at HSC.


He said he’s seen pictures of the long knives and machetes – just a few examples of some of the weapons that have been brought into the hospital.


“We’re now going to be taking a greater effort to make sure that they’re not carrying any weapons that could be of concern for us,” he said. “Prior to this, we weren’t so much asking. It was similar to your going to the store, going to a mall – we just didn’t ask.”


Under this pilot project, which could last months, every patient, visitor and staff member will need to be screened when entering the ER or Crisis Response Centre. It’ll be similar to a metal detector, but this scanner will use AI to detect weapons.


Unlike a metal detector, visitors won’t have to take off their shoes or pull out their keys, wallet and cellphone from their pocket.


“It is exciting because we’re only the second hospital in the country to be using this new technology,” Young said.


Similar technology is being used in Ontario’s Windsor Regional Hospital. Since the Ontario hospital started using the new technology in October 2023, it detected more than 1,800 ‘threats.’


It’s a success that Young hopes will be replicated here in Winnipeg – but the hospital isn’t necessarily putting all its eggs in one basket.


“There is not one thing that we do that is going to be able to get our campus safe for everybody,” Young said. “It’s going to be hundreds of things that we’re going to be doing on a regular basis… This is just going to be one of those tools.”


That’s a sentiment echoed by the Manitoba Nurses Union, who said the new technology is a step in the right direction.


“One of the things that we hear from nurses is that, yeah, there’s lots of weapons coming into facilities,” said the union’s president Darlene Jackson. “But I think we still need to really address the violence that’s happening, because it’s not just weapons – it is nurses being yelled at, being spit on, being assaulted, being punched. Those are issues that also need to be dealt with.”


The hospital said this AI technology is just one of the ways it’s trying to address the safety concerns. It has already added amnesty lockers, where people can store weapons and other items while inside the hospital. It has also beefed up the hospital’s security team, with 40 safety officers working in the areas of the highest reported violence each equipped with pepper spray.


Manitoba’s Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara told CTV News they believe the AI scanners along with the other safety efforts will make a ‘measurable difference.’


“I know its health care workers who often are most at risk of violence, and I want HSC health care staff to know we’re making these investments with their safety and wellbeing in mind,” they said in a statement.


A spokesperson for Shared Health said the vendor of the AI technology is lending the equipment to the hospital for the trial period, so the hospital doesn’t have to pay anything. They noted there may be some costs around additional staff for the scanners.


After the pilot, if the hospital wants to move forward, it would need to submit an official RFP and purchase the equipment.


-With files from CTV’s Daniel Halmarson 

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