The provincial Ministry of Health has rejected Parksville’s proposed bylaw to regulate hypodermic needle distribution.
In response, Mayor Ed Mayne has written a letter to Stephen Brown, Deputy Minister of Health, detailing his concerns.
Parksville’s bylaw to regulate hypodermic needle distribution states that an authorized distributor be registered with the city, to distribute only retractable single-use needles, and that “no more than 10 needles shall be distributed to an individual, unless an equal amount are being exchanged.”
A letter from the deputy minister, dated Sept. 29, said that “we did not believe that the proposed bylaw presented the most effective path forward in protecting the health and safety of British Columbians.” One of the reasons stated that global studies show the use of retractable syringes in distribution programs were deemed unacceptable by many clients, and that retractable syringes are more expensive than regular ones. The letter also suggested the bylaw’s requirement for only allowing 10 needles be distributed was in direct conflict with the provincial’s health goal of a “sterile syringe for every injection.” And by putting a limit on supplies may put individuals at risk of sharing needles, which then puts them at a higher risk of acquiring or transmitting blood-born pathogens.
In Mayne’s written response, dated Oct. 27, he said he finds it difficult to understand why they consider the bylaw is against the province’s harm reduction policy, as there’s been a substantial increase of overdose deaths in B.C., and that the current policy appears to be “largely unsuccessful.”
His letter reiterated that the bylaw does not attempt to reduce access to hypodermic needles, and council simply seeks more stringent control of their distribution for accountability purposes.
“Many discarded needles being found in our community are unused. These needles are being distributed with no accountability and users discard them without consequence.”
Mayne considers the reason the deputy minister gave for rejecting the distribution of retractable syringes directly conflicts with providing free needles in the first place. He believes if people were only given what they need for the short term, this would offset the increased cost of retractable single-use needles.
“As a result of unlimited distribution and improper disposal of sharps in public spaces, new safe work procedures, training for staff, specific PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and sharps disposal kits have been required; the cost of which are borne by municipal tax payers.”
In his letter, Mayne stated that health policies should not consider the needs of “only one segment of the population, but also the reduction of harmful impacts on the wider population.”
In a follow to the release of these letters, Mayne said currently “there are no further steps” to be announced at this time.