SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Harrington HealthCare System continues to focus on the safety of its patients, staff and visitors following a June 14 incident where a Southbridge Emergency Room nurse was stabbed by a patient.
Since the attack, Harrington has implemented strict security guidelines within its Emergency Departments in Webster and Southbridge that include limited visitor access per patient and subjecting all persons and bags to search upon arrival.
The healthcare system recently released an update to its security measures, effective September 25.
All persons and bags will remain subject to search upon arrival. Harrington has purchased two walk-through metal detectors at each of its Emergency Room entrances.
Each patient will now be limited to two visitors, with Public Safety managing visitor flow. Re-entry and visitor swapping will be permitted and managed by Public Safety at reasonable intervals, and Public Safety will also collaborate with the charge nurse in situations where visitation should be limited.
“We recognize our initial policy caused some frustration for our patients and their families,” said Harry Lemieux, one of Harrington’s vice presidents. “Our priority continues to be creating the safest environment possible for anyone who visits our hospital or any of our medical office buildings. We have been working hard to revise our policy to create safe but more flexible visitation, and we think this adjustment accomplishes that need.”
In addition to these efforts, Harrington has taken a global approach to enhancing its safety and security; the healthcare system now has more than 24 properties across south central Massachusetts, with plans for a Putnam, Conn. behavioral health building to open in early 2018.
Efforts have included the addition of more Public Safety staff, more security cameras, further securing access to facilities, and panic button installation across all locations.
Many of Harrington’s employees, including Public Safety staff, will be undergoing advanced training in de-escalation and defensive tactics with programs such as MOAB (Management of Aggressive Behavior). The Public Safety officers, many of whom have law enforcement backgrounds as Auxiliary members to local Police Departments, will now carry batons, pepper spray (foam-based) and handcuffs.
“There are very strict guidelines and circumstances under which these tools would be used, and that is being communicated during the training being taken by our Public Safety Department,” Lemieux said.
Harrington has become somewhat of a role model for other statewide healthcare organizations, which are recognizing the need to do more to protect patients and employees. Harrington was the first in Massachusetts to place metal detectors at its Emergency Room entrances, in addition to many other policies being implemented ahead of the national standard for healthcare security.
Internally, Harrington is working to engage its 1,500 employees with a Workplace Violence Committee to share ideas and hear updates, as well as a reverse 911 system, which will provide multiple messages through several communication channels to all employees should an emergency occur. On-site training and drills will also be rolled out to employees with department and building-specific protocols.