About ten percent or more of U.S. healthcare workers are assaulted each year,” said Tony W. York, CPP, CHPA, president, International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) to security professionals attending the “Serious About Security—2008 Symposium” at the Intercontinental Hotel Conference Center—Cleveland Clinic Campus, Cleveland. 

Sponsored by Matrix Systems, Dayton, Ohio, the symposium also featured security expert presentations from Texas A & M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas; medical imaging manufacturer, Carestream Health, Rochester, N.Y.; Security Risk Management Consultants, Columbus, Ohio. The symposium also featured a tour of the access control and security system command center controlling/monitoring the 1.5-square-mile Cleveland Clinic’s campus, home to the largest heart hospital in the U.S.

York, who is also senior vice president—security at Hospital Shared Services, Denver, bases his U.S. assaults estimate on a recent meeting with officials from the National Health Services (NHS), the U.K.’s publicly-funded healthcare system. “We don’t have a national incident reporting system here, but the NHS reports 55,000 assaults on U.K. healthcare workers last year and they suspect at least another 55,000 incidents weren’t reported,” said York during his “Security Design Considerations for the Healthcare Market” presentation. “That’s 110,000 assaults in a healthcare system with only 1.3 million employees.”

The “drying up” of U.S. behavioral healthcare funding, which is illustrated by Denver’s recent closings of five primary mental healthcare facilities according to York, is another reason for increased assaults on healthcare workers nationwide. With the decrease of behavioral care services, mental patients are flooding emergency departments and assaults are escalating.

York also cited another shocking emergency department statistic that must be addressed with security and access control. A four-year study conducted by the Henry Ford Medical Center, Detroit, reported that four percent of persons arriving at the emergency department carry weapons.

As an advocate of separating the walk-in/reception area from triage, treatment areas and patient quiet/safe rooms, York urged the healthcare security people in attendance to design and retrofit emergency rooms with access control designs that protect hospital employees, but don’t inhibit the swiftness of ingress that care specialists need in emergencies.

Another speaker, Thomas J. Rohr, CPP, director of Worldwide Corporate Security, Carestream Health, Rochester, N.Y., a recent $2.5 billion medical imaging equipment manufacturer sell-off from Kodak, urged security professionals to continue searching for new ways to challenge their existing access control systems. Rohr, who presented “Worldwide Corporate Security for Your Company,” encourages his building managers at facilities in seven countries to demand new and challenging applications for Carestream’s global security operation. “If your security needs aren’t increasing everyday, there’s something wrong,” said Rohr, “because there’s always something new, something better, or something more you can do with your existing system to increase security and usability.”

Rohr’s four-person staff solves most challenges with in-house security personnel or with assistance from Matrix Systems’ customer service. “Tell me you want contractors timed into the system and reported to the human resources systems,” said Rohr reading a list of past requests from facility managers that his department successfully implemented. “Tell me you want cashless vending services via ID badges. Tell me you want a touch-less access control system for vehicles entering the facility’s garage, because between our staff and Matrix customer service, we can find a way to make it happen.”

Some attendees were also treated to a profile and tour of the Cleveland Clinic’s new state-of-the-art security command center, which was designed by presenter and guide, Martin Epstein, manager, Technical Operations—Protective Services, Cleveland Clinic. As a proponent of security managers taking a lead role in new construction projects, Epstein said: “You have to get involved in every construction project, because only you (security professionals) know where to position access control card readers to create the traffic patterns that will enhance your facility’s security objective,” said Epstein, a 30-year veteran of Cleveland Clinic.

The 3,000-square-foot command center features eight workstations in full view of a 32-monitor video wall allowing Epstein, his supervisors and security watch employees 24/7 views of Cleveland Clinic’s strategic areas. The center has several banks of digital video recorders, its own dedicated uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and generator.

Cleveland Clinic’s adjacent emergency management command center room accommodates 12 people with their own seating, telephone, internet and power connections, plus three plasma monitors, room cameras, and feeds to Cleveland Clinic’s administration offices. The room also has electronics for Ohio’s new Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS), an 800-megahertz, voice and data network for the Ohio highway patrol and other health, safety and emergency agencies.

Cleveland Clinic’s access control system plays a major part in the hospital’s expansion. By 2009 the hospital will have expanded to 2,500 magnetic locks for entries, 1,700 ID card readers, 600 CCTV cameras with DVR capabilities, and 6,000 alarm points that monitor panic and intrusion alarms to incubators, laboratories, freezers, and many other critical areas that all culminate at Matrix’s Frontier software workstations.