Implementing Harm Reduction Services in Acute Care: Patient and Healthcare Provider Experiences

People who inject drugs are at increased risk of many serious negative health outcomes. Syringe exchange programs provide sterile supplies to people who inject drugs to prevent these outcomes and help connect people to health and social services. Syringe exchange programs are currently limited in acute care, which is a problem because people who inject drugs often end up in hospital, and close to half continue to inject while in hospital. A lack of syringe exchange programs leads to needle sharing or unsterile injections, and leaving hospital too early. These factors can all increase health problems, and may lead to longer hospital stays, more serious return hospital visits, death, and increased system costs. 

Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital implemented Canada’s first syringe exchange for hospital inpatients in 2014. This program was developed ad hoc because there were no guidelines on how to implement syringe exchange in hospitals. To address this, we:

1) are examining patient data to better understand which patients who inject drugs are most likely to use the syringe exchange program while in the hospital, and

2) are conducting interviews with patients and staff to determine whether the program is meeting their needs, and if they have any recommendations for improving it.  

Study Lead: Elaine Hyshka (principal investigator), Kelsey Speed (research coordinator), and Hannah Brooks (research coordinator) 

Funding Support: CIHR and MSI Foundation

Status: Ongoing