Joint Commission Alert Won’t Significantly Improve Hospital Security

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. —Although the Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Alert that was issued earlier this month is being applauded by healthcare security practitioners around the nation, many don’t believe it will greatly affect hospital security in the long run.

“It will be a stimulus for people to examine some of their procedures and security,” healthcare facility security consultant Russell Colling tells Campus Safety Magazine. “The questions are going to come from the top, and the answers will probably be left to the security directors. If the solution costs money, it will probably be put on hold or at least be examined more. If it involves some simple steps that can be affected without more money and time, and the ROI is there, we will get some improvements.”

Access, Visitor Controls Will Be Improved

Colling anticipates that the majority of advances in security will involve access control, parking designations and having people enter and exit in correct areas. He also expects that after-hours visitations will be more closely managed. Additionally, Colling believes there will be more de-escalation training.

That said, Colling does not believe the improvements will be appreciable. “We have short memories. After a few weeks, things will settle down.”

Joe Bellino, who is president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) and assistant executive for security at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, doesn’t believe the Joint Commission’s Alert will have a significant impact but could motivate hospital executives to more enthusiastically support improvements to security.

“It certainly can’t hurt,” says Bellino. “But every security director has to sell themselves and sell their programs, and that’s what we’ve been doing for years. Most of us in the business understand that if we have a secure environment, it’s conducive to [a hospital being] an employer of choice. Employees want to work where they will be safe.”

Enforcement Could Be Challenging

Both men believe that the Joint Commission is serious in its commitment to improving hospital security. Bellino speculates the commission may have responded to many hospital security professionals’ concerns that when the commission combined the safety and security standards last year, it diminished the perceived importance of security.

“Maybe this is a change in their thinking or in response to those concerns,” he says.

Colling worries, however, that surveyors will have a hard time with enforcement. “There is not much they can survey against” he says. “If you look at the Sentinel Event, it includes things you’re supposed to be doing anyway. Maybe you can do them better, but there is nothing new I see that surveyors can latch on to.”

Bellino claims that most hospital security professionals are already proactive. He credits the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s workplace violence standard that was implemented in the mid-1990s for this improvement.

“I think the Joint Commission is a little behind on this,” he says. “We as professionals have been addressing these issues head-on for years.”

Ashley Willis is associate editor for Campus Safety. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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