Hospital Security and Covid19 Pandemic
As we are going through such a terrible time right now throughout the world with Covid19, we need to remember those healthcare workers that are trying to keep us all safe. In this case I am speaking about the hospital security officers.
Healthcare Security & Safety
Most people do not understand that the risks in healthcare related to workplace violence is out of control in some areas. This problem does not just affect the large inner-city medical centers, because we have seen increased levels of violence in even the small rural hospitals.
In some cases, hospitals do not have security officers at all, and some others may only have them during the overnight hours. Of course, there are the larger medical centers and health systems that have multiple security officers working each shift, and in some cases, they have their police departments.
Hospital Security and Coivd19
During times like this where we are trying to control the spread of such a potentially deadly virus, we often look at our access controls in hospitals to ensure that we properly manage our environment. That is nothing new for healthcare, but the number of different ways that health systems are managing their security are untold.
For example, we as security professionals need to control the access to areas such as the Emergency Department. Again, this is something that most healthcare organizations are doing every day, but the way we control them has been modified during this pandemic.
Case in point a very large health system with medical facilities throughout the world recently instructed their security officers to screen all people that were entering their facilities for indicators of Covid19. Is this a proper use of a very limited number of security officers that are often on staff? Are the security officers properly trained to access someone for the virus? Are the security officers properly equipment with the personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves? Of course, the answer is no to all the above. However, this has been the practice of numerous health systems when they need additional help; they call on security.
During times like this security needs to be properly trained and equipped to handle security incidents that are related to or a result of the pandemic. They should not be used for conducting medical/health screenings. Look at it this way, if this pandemic gets worse, and large numbers of people rush the hospitals for testing or treatment, will there be enough security officers to control the onslaught? Not if they are doing the screenings or if they have been infected by the virus.
Hospital Security’s Role
Over the years health systems have often called upon security to handle tasks that have nothing to do with security. Example of those tasks would include moving deceased patients from their rooms or the E.D. and transport them to the morgue; unplug toilets; deliver or pickup mail; transport pharmaceuticals or lab tests to and from locations; and many other duties. None of which has anything to do with protecting the organization’s assets.
I cannot count the number of times that I have spoken with a healthcare administrator and they tell me that they do not think security is doing enough to protect the organization. Then when I conduct my assessment, I find that they cannot do even the basics of providing security because the officers are more of a labor pool for other departments, and they are too busy doing non-security related tasks.
For examples of this, there was one hospital the security officers were responsible for washing the vehicles that the health system owned. Another health system was using the security officers to make food runs to local restaurants for the nursing staff who ordered food to-go. The list goes on and on, and this by no means is an isolated problem. Just imagine for a moment that we required police officers to do these types of tasks and not protect us from criminal acts.
Hospital security officers need to be responsible for only security related tasks, and that means those tasks that are intended to protect the organization, its staff, patients, and visitors from injury or losses of any types.
As I stated in the beginning, workplace violence is at an all-time high in most states and has resulted in numerous lost workdays for nurses and other staff. There have been staff injured to the point that they were not able to return to work.
In talking with hundreds of nurses and nurses’ aids over the years I often hear them say, it is part of the job. No, it is not, the physical attacks on staff is not tolerated in any other profession, why would it be tolerated in healthcare?
Part of the precipitating factors that lead to violence in healthcare is that the emotions of the patients or their families often become overwhelming. As a result, they are more prone to act out and become physical. During this pandemic crisis hospitals are not allowing visitors for now, and this is very upsetting to many people. Some of the patients are not going to survive the virus and the family knows it, but they are not allowed to be with their loved ones. Thus, hospitals need to have a plan to prevent violence more than ever before, and they need to ensure that their security staff is ready and knows how to address this pending time-bomb.
Now is the time for hospital administrators to review their security protocols and to ensure that their security staff is ready, trained, and properly equipped to handle security needs, and to stop requiring security to perform non-security related tasks. Security needs to be utilized for the protection of your assets, which include the staff, patients, visitors, and facilities.