Oahu hospitals beef up security with high-tech equipment and extra security guards

The effort to protect health care workers comes in the wake of an increase in violence at facilities across the county.

All visitors to Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center’s emergency department must pass through a weapon detection system that uses artificial intelligence to locate and identify dangerous objects such as guns and knives.

Waianae Coastal Health Center is implementing a system called Evolv, following a national trend of increasing security at medical facilities following reports of increased violence by nurses and others against hospital staff. He said that he is introducing. Other hospitals around Oahu are undertaking similar efforts.

Regis Snatchko, director of security operations for Waianae Beach, said the installation of Evolv is not a response to a specific incident on-site, but rather a precautionary measure to keep the facility safe.

Waianae Coastal Health Center recently installed a new machine called Evolv that uses advanced sensors and artificial intelligence to detect weapons. Violent attacks against nurses are on the rise in hospitals across the country, and experts say a lack of staffing is partly to blame. (Courtesy of Waianae Coastal Health Center)

“For this side of the island, this is a very important facility and a key emergency room,” Sunatchko said of the emergency department, which serves about 21,000 patients a year. “We must take that responsibility seriously and keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Hawaii data on the number of assaults on hospital workers was not available, but a 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nationally, the rate of violence against health care workers increased by 60% from 2011 to 2018. It increased by more than %. Experts say this trend is being driven in part by staffing shortages, which means fewer nurses caring for more patients.

The recent murder of a nurse at Hawaii State Hospital brought the issue into sharper focus, but health officials say violence against nurses has increased in recent years.

“This is an ongoing issue and an ongoing challenge,” said Hilton Racel, president and CEO of the Hawaii Medical Association. “Every hospital needs to invest in increased security.”

Take action island-wide

Waianae Comprehensive’s Evolv system works by using sensor technology to read the metal density of objects passing through the system. It also uses artificial intelligence to recognize patterns over time and distinguish between harmless objects (such as nail clippers) and weapons (such as knives), Snatchko said.

It’s also quicker and less invasive than sweeping or dabbing with a metal detector wand, Sunatchko said.

“It improves the experience for patients and the employees who come in,” Sunatchko said. “Imagine what we experience at airports while traveling. This system is nothing like that.”

New security measures at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, including the Evolv system, cost about $400,000, a hospital spokesperson said. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

So far, the machine, which screens about 7,000 people a day, has caught several wrenches and tools, and one person entering the emergency room handed over a large pocket knife to a security guard, Sunachiko said. It is said that this caused him to pass through.

The hospital has taken other steps, including creating a security committee, hiring more security guards at the front entrance, hiring a security operations officer and tinting the glass in certain areas. The new security measures, including the Evolv system, cost about $400,000, hospital spokesman Ian Ross said.

Queen’s Medical Center Punchbowl installed its own Evolv system in July, said Cedric Yamanaka, a hospital spokesperson. This is the only location in Queens Hospital where this machine is installed.

Yamanaka could not provide statistics on assaults on staff at Queen’s Hospital, but said the hospital had seen an increase.

Troy Branstetter, vice president of Hawaii Pacific Health, said Hawaii Pacific Health does not have metal detectors in place, but 24-hour security and staff are available at the push of a button to assist. Other safety measures are in place, including a callable alarm system. General service. The hospital network is in the process of acquiring a weapons detection system.

Kristen Devitt, director of regional security for Kaiser Permanente, said Moanalua Medical Center’s emergency department has a weapons detection system, and all Kaiser facilities have access control devices and surveillance cameras. . The hospital also conducts magnetic searches at all facilities and provides security escorts to visitors and patients with a history of violent or threatening behavior, she said.

“It’s frustrating that we have to spend so much money to keep our staff safe, but unfortunately it’s necessary,” Ressel said. “We need to let our employees know that we are doing everything we can to protect them.”

But while nurses would like to see machines like Evolv and metal detectors installed in hospitals, they say these systems cannot stop all attacks.

dangerous work

Stephen Hobbs, who retired as an emergency department nurse at Queen’s Health Center Punchbowl two years ago, said he had experienced many physical attacks during his 30-year career.

“I don’t think there was a year that went by where I wasn’t assaulted in some way, shape, or form,” he said.

Hobbs recalled an incident in the late 1990s when a woman was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance and pulled a handgun from her pocket.

“They opened the door and she ran down the length of the ER and for some reason felt the need to fire a few shots as she tried to get out the door,” he said.

No one was injured, but he remembers the hospital significantly increasing safety measures afterward.

Danielle Ross, Hawaii Nursing Association PresidentDanielle Ross, Hawaii Nursing Association President
Dan Ross, president of the Hawaii Nursing Association, said the increase in violence against nurses is partly due to understaffing in hospitals and a lack of space in specialized treatment units for patients with psychological or behavioral health issues. said. (Courtesy of Dan Ross)

“This was the beginning of metal detectors being installed at hospital entrances,” Hobbs said. “Many of the windows in old ERs were replaced with bulletproof glass.”

Dan Ross, president of the Hawaii Nursing Association, said he believes metal detectors and weapon scanners should be installed at all emergency rooms and hospital entrances.

Ross said he did not know how many attacks occurred at Hawaii hospitals, but one pregnant nurse was beaten unconscious at Queen’s Medical Center on West Oahu, and another nurse was injured. He cited several recent incidents, including one in which his teacher suffocated to death in a hospital gown. A nurse at Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital and a nurse who was seriously injured by a patient at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

None of these attacks could be prevented by metal detectors or weapons sensors.

He said one of the main factors for violence in hospitals is a shortage of nurses combined with overcrowding.

“Clearly (patients) are not getting the attention they need,” Ross said. “It will upset people’s emotions and make things worse.”

Additionally, a lack of available hospital beds has resulted in more patients with psychological or behavioral problems being admitted to medical floors without specialized treatment, he said.

Ross worries that if the upward trend in violence continues, more nurses will leave the already struggling industry.

“I go into this profession because I want to help people,” he says. “Once you’re a victim of it, people sometimes take a second look.”

Civil Beat’s community health coverage is supported by the Atherton Family Foundation, the Swain Family Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Cook Foundation, and Papa Ola Lokahi.

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