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Union turns thumbs down on OMA's proposal for needle exchange in jails.

TORONTO -- A report by the Ontario Medical Association said that Canada should consider a needle exchange program to reduce the spread of communicable diseases inside prisons. It was received in two ways. Favorably by the Ontario Minister of Public Safety Monte Kwinter and immediately rejected by the union representing Ontario's correctional officers.

The OMA'S position paper, Improving Our Health: Why is Canada lagging behind in establishing needle exchange programs in prisons? states that intravenous drug use in prisons is contributing to the transmission of these diseases in Ontario's communities. The OMA is recommending that all federal prisons in Ontario implement a needle exchange program to help prevent the spread of these diseases. Over 50 NEPS have been successfully implemented around the world and research shows that syringe exchange does not pose any safety concerns to either prison staff or prisoners nor does it lead to an increase in drug use.

"The high infection rates among prisoners poses a problem. We should be concerned both with their health as well as the health of our neighbours," said Dr. Ted Boadway, Executive Director of Health Policy at the OMA Ontario cabinet ministers indicated that they were willing to consider the OMA'S recommendation.

The union differed. "We have an effective infectious disease control program in place right now in Ontario correctional institutions," said Daryl Pitfield, chair of the OPSEU Corrections Provincial Health and Safety Committee. "This program provides protection for both staff and inmates. We absolutely reject any moves to introduce needles into provincial correctional institutions."

Members of the union's safety committee view needles as potential weapons and have concerns about the possibility of more weapons coming into maximum-security facilities.

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Title Annotation:Health; Ontario Medical Association
Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 22, 2004
Previous Article:Publications.
Next Article:Active TB found in two staff at Toronto shelter, testing and education underway.

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