Pump unit responds to St. Boniface Hospital research center

The Winnipeg police bomb squad removed a “volatile substance” from a Winnipeg hospital’s research center Friday afternoon, prompting an evacuation.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) confirmed its bomb unit was called to St. Boniface Hospital’s Albrechtsen Research Center on Friday to “assist in removing a volatile substance.”

A member of the bomb squad, dressed in full protective gear, was seen leaving the building on Friday afternoon holding what appeared to be a container.

“Right now everything is under control. Everything is safe for the general public,” said Const. Claude Chancy, public information officer for WPS, told CTV News.

A member of the Winnipeg police bomb unit removes a ‘volatile substance’ from the Albrechtsen Research Center at St. Boniface Hospital on May 17, 2024. (Source: Jeff Keele/CTV News Winnipeg)

The hospital confirmed that it was not a bomb threat. A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority told CTV News the substance was chemical in nature, but was on site for legitimate research uses.

“During a routine takedown of a laboratory at the Albrechtsen Research Center, a container requiring further investigation was found during an inventory of chemicals found within that laboratory,” the hospital said in an email shared with CTV News.

“Following initial investigation, it appears that the product may have been in the laboratory for some time and degraded over time to a form that is considered highly volatile.”

At around 2.30pm on Friday, Chancy confirmed the substance had been removed and would be disposed of appropriately.

He said no injuries were reported and the bomb squad has since cleared the scene.

Research center and MRI center evacuated, urgent MRIs rerouted

This “volatile substance” prompted a precautionary evacuation, the hospital said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirmed that St. Boniface Hospital’s Albrechtsen Research Center and neighboring MRI facilities had to be evacuated; However, the rest of the hospital was not affected and operations continue normally.

Late Friday afternoon, the hospital confirmed that the research center and MRI facilities had reopened.

Winnipeg Police taped off the entrance to St. Boniface Hospital’s Albrechtsen Research Center on May 17, 2024. (Source: Jeff Keele/CTV News Winnipeg)

The WRHA told CTV News that any urgent MRIs would be redirected to the Health Sciences Center on Friday afternoon. MRI services for urgent patients would resume at St. Boniface on Friday evening, and regular outpatient appointments would resume on Saturday.

The WRHA and the hospital said their occupational safety and health team has processes in place to ensure hazardous chemicals are inventoried and accounted for in the future, so something like this doesn’t happen again.

Police say situation is similar to U of M evacuation last summer

Chancy said the situation is similar to an evacuation that occurred in June 2023 at the University of Manitoba, after a small amount of the chemical was found in a “potentially unstable form” in a storage room.

Chancy said that in that situation, the police bomb unit was also called to remove the substance.