News from Winnipeg: AI Scanners Coming to HSC

News from Winnipeg: AI Scanners Coming to HSC
News from Winnipeg: AI Scanners Coming to HSC

Artificial intelligence is being deployed at Manitoba’s largest hospital to improve security and prevent guns from entering.

The Health Sciences Centre will soon launch a pilot project using AI scanners to detect weapons at the entrances to its adult emergency department and Crisis Response Centre. While a definitive launch date has not yet been set, the hospital says the technology could be up and running as early as next week.

“There have been incidents where people have brought weapons into the facility and earlier this year a guard was injured by one of those weapons,” said Dr. Shawn Young, director of operations at HSC.

He said he had seen photos of the long knives and machetes – just some of the weapons brought to the hospital.

“We’re going to make more of an effort now to make sure they’re not carrying weapons that could be a concern to us,” he said. “Before this, we weren’t asking that much. It was like when you go to the store, to a mall — we just didn’t ask.”

In this pilot project, which could last for months, every patient, visitor and staff member will be screened upon entering the ED or Crisis Response Center. It will be similar to a metal detector, but this scanner will use AI to detect weapons.

Unlike a metal detector, visitors do not have to remove their shoes or take their keys, wallet or cell phone out of their pocket.

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

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

Young hopes this success will be repeated in Winnipeg, but the hospital isn’t necessarily putting all its eggs in one basket.

“There’s not just one thing that we do to make our campus safe for everyone,” Young said. “There are hundreds of things that we’re going to do on a regular basis… This is just one of those tools.”

That’s a sentiment shared by the Manitoba Nurses Union, which says the new technology is a step in the right direction.

“One of the things we hear from nurses is that yes, there are a lot of guns coming into the facilities,” said Darlene Jackson, the union’s president. “But I think we still really need to address the violence that’s happening, because it’s not just guns — it’s nurses being yelled at, spit on, attacked, beaten. Those are issues that need to be addressed as well.”

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

Manitoba Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara told CTV News he is confident the AI ​​scanners, along with other safety measures, will make a “measurable difference.”

“I know it is healthcare workers who are often at greatest risk of violence, and I want HSC healthcare staff to know that we are making these investments with their safety and well-being in mind,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for Shared Health said the AI ​​technology provider is lending the equipment to the hospital for the trial period, so the hospital won’t have to pay anything. They noted there may be costs for additional staffing for the scanners.

If the hospital wants to continue after the pilot, it must submit an official RFP and purchase the equipment.

-With files from CTV’s Daniel Halmarson