Interior Health is fending off criticism that it’s opposed to a needle refund program in Vernon and other communities.
Paying people 5 cents a needle — similar to a bottle deposit — was one of the suggestions by the Safety Task Force.
Medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema says I-H is willing to discuss such a program, but says they have safety concerns.
“People are counting five cents per needle. That means people are gong to be counting hundreds if not thousands of needles, and they could get poked. We don’t want that. When the sharps containers are closed, we don’t want anyone opening them to count,” Mema told city council during a presentation .
Mema has another concern that she says is perhaps more serious.
“Where there are public containers in parks and public bathrooms, those are going to be vandalized. Because guess what? People are now making money out of the needles. And we are talking about people with addictions here.”
Mema says the risk of getting a communicable disease from a needle-stick injury is almost zero, but they are a bio-hazard.
She says only a small proportion of the needles are not properly discarded.
“By no means am I trying to fight against the good intentions of people. I am just saying let’s think through the programs we do so we don’t compete against one another, and we keep in mind the unintended consequences.”
Photo: Dr. Silvina Mema speaks at Vernon council, as Annette Sharkey of Social Planning Council listens.