Fed up with violent incidents, hospitals seek to balance security with patient care

The gunfire that erupted in broad daylight outside Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis was the third shooting incident in hospitals this week and the latest in a wave of increasing violence nationwide. Although the shooting shattered windows and glass doors, the emergency room was back to normal operation in less than half an hour.

It was also the third gun-related incident outside the hospital doors since April, according to the Star Tribune. And while shootings are rare, Leigh Venocur, M.D., an emergency room physician and spokeswoman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, told the newspaper that violent acts in and near the emergency rooms are on the rise.

"It's definitely gone up in the more than 20 years I've been practicing," Vinocur said. "Certainly inner city ERs are beefing up their security. Some are even having metal detectors and things because it's a problem. But it makes sense, too: The ERs are a microcosm of society so all of these things boil over into the emergency department."

Hennepin County Memorial, like other hospitals across the country, now put security measures in place to protect staff and patients. The hospital has security cameras, panic alarms, controlled access to the ED and 24-hour security guards armed with tasers, the Star Tribune reports. And soon it will begin training staff so they have the skills necessary to de-escalate tense situations.

But one ER doctor is fed up with violence in and near the ER and told KARE 11 that enough is enough. "To me it's a very sacred place and to shoot into that, I'm angry, that someone would even consider such a thing," said Matthew Klein, M.D, who works the overnight shift at Hennepin County Memorial. "I want it to stop."

All hospitals now focus on security and preventing violence to keep patients and staff safe, according to Kerry McKean Kelley, vice president of communications for the New Jersey Hospital Association, who spoke to New Jersey 101.5 after last week's shooting death of a patient at Kennedy University Hospital in South Jersey.

Kelley said that the security measures are part of hospital's everyday planning. The biggest challenge, she said, is balancing the need for security and keeping the hospital setting a welcoming environment for patients and visitors.

"Security is paramount, but we also need to have that open access, that's part of a role of a community hospital," she said.

To learn more:
- read the Star Tribune article
- here's KARE 11 coverage
- check out the article from New Jersey 101.5

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