Houlton Regional Hospital Creates Own 24/7 Security Force
Houlton Regional Hospital collaborated with another nearby hospital to establish its own force following an increase in security incidents.
HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Regional Hospital established its own security force that patrols the grounds 24 hours a day.
CEO Shawn Anderson said the decision was made about a year ago when the hospital noticed an uptick in security incidents, reports WAGMTV. The hospital previously contracted with an outside security vendor that did not offer full-time coverage.
Houlton worked with nearby Cary Medical Center, which is also part of the Maine Rural Health Collaborative. Cary officials offered guidance and agreed to share their head of security, Mitchell Wheeler.
Wheeler helped establish the security team which consists of more than half a dozen full-time officers. The officers aren’t armed but have received extensive training on interacting with agitated or combative patients or visitors.
“We use what I like to call verbal judo. We speak to the people. We try to de-escalate them,” said Wheeler. “There are different levels of anxiety and emotional distress, so if you recognize anxiety triggers or what’s triggering them, you can get in there before it escalates to that emotional confrontation.”
Wheeler said the hospital plans to expand the security force by bringing in per diem help to cover for officers who are sick or on vacation.
Chief Nursing Officer Traci Peabody welcomes the change.
“I work in the emergency room as other places within the hospital as a staff nurse; I’ve managed some areas and seen what it was doing to the staff and the patients when people came in and were aggressive and not having the assistance that we needed,” she said. “Most recently over the last couple of years, the local law enforcement, they’re short-staffed like everyone else, and their ability to come and stay with us hasn’t been easy for them either. We needed something of our own to help with that and to relieve that stress on them.”
The hospital is also in the process of implementing a new electronic portal for medical records, according to The County. Work on the new system began in Jan. 2022 and is expected to be completed next month.
The new platform will allow for better workflow and exchange of information between the hospital and the Houlton Regional Hospital Outpatient Physician Office practices.