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On the front lines for our safety

Security needs increased in record time when the pandemic hit in March 2019. So much so, that there was a possible labour shortage in the security agency sector. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) saw its staffing levels increase by an additional 100 agents to fill the extra tasks imposed by the situation. In all, close to 300 security officers were on the front lines of our establishments to ensure the safety of all.

Over a year ago, the MUHC went into emergency mode. “We had to be flexible and agile to respond quickly to the rapidly changing situation,” says Alain Hudon, service manager of the Security and Emergency Measures Department. Among other things, agents had to be assigned to triage stations, screening clinics and vaccination clinics. 

On the front lines for our safety

Gary Sarazin, security guard at the Montreal General Hospital

Family portrait

A notable strength of the MUHC is that it has its own corps of security guards: some 100 guards who work mainly at the Montreal General Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, the Lachine Hospital and the Camille-Lefebvre Pavilion.

“There is a great complicity between security, medical staff and the different teams. People know each other, and that makes the job easier. That's the advantage of having our own security team. Some agents have been here for almost 28 years,” says Alain.

The MUHC also relies on the services of approximately 100 Garda World employees to provide security at the Glen site. To meet the growing needs of the pandemic, the Security and Emergency Measures Department has had to call on the services of more than 100 new guards from the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires and the Centre Investigation et Sécurité Canada to do the triage at the entrances, for example.

An increased workload

“Through all of this, we must not forget that the daily work of our agents continues,” explains Alain Hudon. “COVID-19 makes it that much more difficult for them to do their jobs.”

Alexandre Lamontagne, who has been working with the MUHC security team for nearly five years, can attest to this. One of his biggest challenges? Responding to a Code White and helping medical staff control an aggressive patient... who had COVID-19!

A profession with a human face

Security agent Jennifer Balayut has seen the increasing stress experienced by her and her colleagues. “It was overwhelming and frustrating at times. We were walking on eggshells every day. We understand people's attitudes and anger, but we have to stay calm and enforce policies. I feel for them, but it's for their safety,” she says.

“At first, the work of a security guard is basically a customer service job. It requires patience, empathy and tact,” reminds Alain Hudon. During the pandemic, agents have had to adapt their approach to people who may be more irritable than usual.

The opening of the vaccination clinic brought the human nature of the profession to the forefront. “For example, when the vaccination of people aged 90 and over began, our security agents were there to ensure the well-being of these people, to guide them, to ensure their comfort, to reassure them and to see to their well-being while they waited," says Alain Hudon, proud of his team.

Thank you and congratulations to the entire team for ensuring our safety!