Video Surveillance Helps Protect Hospital Workers

Oct. 27, 2008

WHEN IT COMES to workplace violence, U.S. healthcare workers – especially those in hospitals – face some of the highest risks.   According to FBI statistics, doctors, nurses and aides who deal with psychiatric patients, members of emergency medical response teams and hospital employees working in admissions, emergency rooms and crisis or acute care units experience the largest number of Type 2 assaults.   That type of assault is defined as violence directed at employees by users of an organization's services.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported hospital workers are more than four times as likely to be assaulted on the job as compared to those in other private-sector industries.

These statistics give system integrators and security dealers a tremendous opportunity to offer hospital administrators electronic security solutions to help reduce assaults in the workplace.   Video surveillance systems can play a vital role in any installation.

Emergency rooms are often the site of the most egregious violence.   For instance, gang violence that begins on the streets can continue into the ER, where injured gang members go to seek medical treatment.   Cameras should be mounted to view the main entry, the waiting room and non-treatment areas within the examination/treatment space.

And cameras should view all other hospital entries where people may look for other ways to gain entry into the emergency room to continue their dispute with a patient.   Other areas that deserve monitoring include the admissions desk, elevator banks and the pharmacy.   With its cache of powerful drugs, the pharmacy requires cameras at the dispensing desk, within the pharmacists' work areas and at the receiving docks, where the drugs arrive and enter the hospital.

Cameras should be placed directly outside of the nursery and psychiatric and geriatric wards.   Every few months, there is a painful story of a newborn baby being kidnapped from a hospital.   And both the young and old suffering from mental disease may wander.   If they leave the hospital, they could put themselves at great risk.

The parking garage is another area deserving of video surveillance.   Since nearly all hospitals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, employees and visitors are coming and going at all times.   A garage offers an attacker many ideal places to hide in wait.

Public monitors placed at main visitor entry points will put anyone entering the hospital clearly on notice that they are under video surveillance.   This will help the cameras to act as a deterrent to criminal activity.

All video should be transmitted to a central security station where it will be recorded for investigative purposes in case of an assault, theft or other crime.   And it is important that hospital security staff (or computer analytics) be assigned to monitor the live video in order to immediately respond with staff members or local law enforcement in case of an emergency situation.

Of course, a full security system for a hospital will also include alarm points, access control, biometrics, bulletproof glass, lighting, emergency phones and other measures.   But properly sited cameras can extend the range of the security staff and provide valuable forensic information.

Dave Shelton is president of D/A Central Inc., a 50-year-old systems integration company serving Michigan and the northern Midwest . D/A Central is also a member of SecurityNet Inc., an international network of systems integrators closely interacting to serve national-level clientele with local attentiveness at every location.