Healthcare Security Case Study

 In Blog Postings, Case Study, Healthcare Security, Uncategorized

Healthcare security management has an important role in managing security risks, and in this case we are talking about managing risks associated with security officers that are not hospital employees.

We have all seen security officers in healthcare that are either proprietary officers, those who work as employees of the organization they are protecting, or contracted security officers, those that work for a private security contractor. In some settings you may find both types of security officers working.

Healthcare Security Officers

Healthcare is one of those places that often have both proprietary and contracted security officers working in the same facility. Basically, a medical center may have their own security staff, and yet they may also contract with a private security service to manage certain tasks or assignments.

An example of this may be that the contract security service may be asked to patrol satellite campuses after hours so that the hospital’s security officers can remain at the main hospital.

In some cases it is also possible that a medical facility may only have contract security officers providing all security services. However, in this case study we are taking about both types of officers working the same facility.

Law Enforcement and Contract Security

A more common example when contract security officers may be working in a hospital is the fact that in some parts of the country law enforcement agencies hire private security contractors to monitor prisoners that are patients in the hospital. They do so either short-term in the Emergency department or long-term within the inpatient areas of the medical center.

Law enforcement often does this to save money; basically they will pay a contract security officer far less than a sworn peace officer to watch the patient. However, although this practice may save the law enforcement agency money and staffing resources, it may be increasing your hospital’s risks and liability.

The practice of contracting out services to guard prisoners in hospitals is probably here to stay. That being the case, how can we in healthcare security management, or risk management, ensure that the hospital’s risks and liability exposure are still properly managed?

Increased Security Risks

Over the years we have identified numerous risks as a result of untrained and unsupervised contract security officers working within a healthcare setting under the direction of a law enforcement agency.  Those risks have included unlicensed security officers and security officers that were carrying firearms that they were not licensed to carry, and all unbeknownst to the law enforcement agency or the hospital.

In one such case a private security service was retained to watch a prisoner at a medical center and the security officer was armed with both lethal and non-lethal weapons. Over the course of about 8 hours several complaints were received by the hospital security department regarding the contract officer not being with their prisoner as well as other inappropriate behavior.

The hospital security staff made several attempts to rectify the issues and even contacted the contract security company’s management. In this case the private security service’s management advised the hospital security staff that their guards were not to follow any instructions of the medical center, as they were under contract with the sheriff’s office.

As a result of this, the hospital’s security management checked the license status of the contracted officers; the state in which this was occurring required that all officers have a state issued “Guard Card” in their possession at all times while working. It was then discovered that several of the officers were not licensed, and it was also found that they were not licensed to carry firearms even though they were armed. A quick call from the hospital to the contracting law enforcement agency found that they were not aware of the fact that the security officers were armed and unlicensed. The medical center’s security management then advised the law enforcement agency to remove the contracted security officers immediately.

As a result of the issues with this contract security service, this medical center now requires that all private security officers that perform security services on their properties, regardless of whom contracts them, must provide verification that the security officers are properly licensed prior to working.  Also, if the contract security officers are to be armed the law enforcement agency must provide proper notice to the medical center’s security management and ensure that the security officers have the proper licenses and training for all weapons.

Healthcare Security Management

In the case mentioned above it came down to the fact that even though the medical center was not the agency that contracted the private security service, they still were within their rights to determine who was working on their property and to ensure that all laws were being followed. Imagine for a minute if the contracted security officer’s firearm was improperly used and someone was injured. Do you think that the medical center could claim they had no liability, or it was not their problem?

The medical center had every right to ensure that any firearm within their facility was authorized, and that a security vendor was not placing the medical center’s staff, patients, visitors and others at risk. This medical center barred the contract security company from ever working on any of the medical center’s properties as a direct result of the contract security company’s illegal actions and the fact that the security vendor’s management was uncooperative.

Keep in mind that neither the law enforcement agency nor the numerous private security contractors that they might contract with have healthcare security management experience, nor are they always required to have it.  They also may not understand accreditation standards, statutory requirements that some states have related to healthcare security, or even HIPAA. Because of that your organization may have increased risks and liability exposure if you fail to properly manage it.

Security Risk Mitigation

If your healthcare organization has security contractors working either short-term or long-term within your facility, and you do not already verify their compliance with statutory or accreditation regulations or standards, you should give it serious consideration before something unfavorable occurs.

In the case mentioned above, there were questions of whether or not a medical center could require a law enforcement agency to pull its contract security company off the property or if the medical center could ban the contract security company, being they were a contractor of the sheriff’s department.  However, the medical center was a private entity and they had every right to decide who comes on their property.

Questions to Consider

Do you know who is working at your facility, even under the direction of a law enforcement agency? Are they properly licensed (e.g. the company and the individual officers if required by law)? Are they properly trained to work in a healthcare setting? Do you have a process in place to determine what weapons are authorized to be carried by contract officers? These are just a few of the many questions that a healthcare organization needs to consider in order to insure that they are properly managing their risks.

Note: There are many private security companies working throughout the country that are fully trained in healthcare security and have highly trained and experienced healthcare security management personnel. The above examples, as well as the other incidents where these issues resulted in increased risks and liability, were often small locally owned and operated security companies.

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