Parksville city council members will meet with an Island Health official to discuss hypodermic needle regulation within the city.
A letter from Island Health, dated Dec. 21, 2020, and addressed to the chief administrative officer of Parksville, Keeva Kehler, was received and discussed during the latest open council meeting on Feb. 1.
The letter, written by James Hanson (vice-president, clinical operations, central/north), responded to a letter Mayor Ed Mayne wrote in October 2020 when Island Health rejected council’s proposed bylaw to regulate needle distribution in the city.
Mayne wrote “many discarded needles being found in our community are unused” and that “needles are being distributed with no accountability and users discard them without consequence.” He considered the reason the deputy minister gave for rejecting the distribution of retractable syringes was in direct conflict with providing free needles to the public in the first place.
Hanson’s letter stated that Island Health acknowledges the commendations provided by the Medical Health Officer in October 2019, and by the ministry during the fall of 2020, do not align with Parksville’s proposed bylaw.
“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 wrote.
After the letter was formally received by city council, Mayne made a motion for city staff arrange a meeting with Hanson to address hypodermic needles in Parksville’s parks and public spaces.
Coun. Doug O’Brien said: “We’ve exchanged a lot of correspondence and so forth, but I think we need to explain our own perspective, face-to-face, to the health officials, and likewise to themselves. I think this has been lacking and it’s time for us to get to the table with them and that’s when we can maybe come to some collaboration or solution to this problem.”
While Mayne said he wasn’t “holding his breath” on how far the meeting would go, he agreed with O’Brien in that at least “we have a shot at having them understand what we’re saying.”