BY DAVID JAMES HEISS
Last quarter three weapons were confiscated from patients; in the latest quarter, that figure went from three to 45, according to Joey Hunter Sr., director of security and emergency management, who gave a presentation to San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital’s board members at their Sept. 7 meeting.
Hunter explained that staff asks incoming patients if they have anything that could harm them or others, and “a lot of people are presenting things to clinical staff,” which security then receives a call to come and retrieve it.
Hunter said that recently one homeless man had 30 dirty syringes, black tar heroine and knives in his possession.
“The Police Department was contacted, but we were told they couldn’t come out, and to dispose of the heroin,” Hunter said.
As part of workplace violence training, employees are taught to “never underestimate who is in front of you; if you have a gut feeling, alert security. Nine times out of 10 gut feelings are correct, and we find weapons on these individuals,” Hunter said.
Thirty hospital associates completed the latest workplace violence prevention and awareness training session, which is required to be done on annual basis, he reported.
Federal grants have helped fund things such as additional security cameras around parking areas; and $200,000 in Homeland Security and FEMA grants helped to provide “access control” related to COVID-19.
The hospital has stepped up patrols after two employees of the hospital and one hospital security van had their catalytic converters stolen.
No such incidents have taken place within the past 30 days, Hunter said.
Hospital Board Member Steve Rutledge wondered how long it takes to get one off a car.
According to Hunter, less than two minutes.
Rutledge also wondered, have those weapons always been getting into the hospital?
Hunter replied “I think we’ve always asked and have been confiscating them, but as we get more people coming into the area, we’re going to see an increase in incidents.”
Hunter explained that “If we confiscate from a patient, we ask if someone can have someone pick them up for them — or shall we call the Police Department? Most of the time they tell us to keep it;” if it has sentimental value the hospital keeps it until the patient is discharged, and has their item returned in an envelope.
CEO Steve Barron requested that Hunter explain how San Gorgonio’s record compares to that of other hospitals when it comes to being confronted with weapons and security.
Hunter pointed to the annual risk assessment recorded for every hospital by the CAP Index, which charges a fee for its data; according to Hunter, perfect city scores are between 100-200.
“Our last score for San Gorgonio is 102,” Hunter said, adding, “St. Bernardine’s where I came from was 1800. There’s no comparison — we’re talking 20 times the weapons we see here” in Banning, according to Hunter.
Siri Welch, who was instated for her first meeting after having been appointed a board member, inquired about workforce violence training: “Is that a requirement for employees? Is it mandatory?”
Hunter confirmed the affirmative for both.
Chief Nursing Officer Pat Brown said that “In the past people wouldn’t let us search their backpacks; that policy has changed, and we search it whether they like it or not,” which could partially explain the increase in discovering more weapons.
Board Member Ron Rader asked whether the number of hospital’s security staff was sufficient.
Hunter responded, “Right now our staffing level is appropriate. We’re not really having any issues” and cited recent security who have come aboard at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital claim “This place is like a breath of fresh air” compared to where some security staff have previously worked.
Board Member Dennis Tankersly inquired as to whether the hospital should look into having metal detectors.
Hunter explained that they have a metal detection wand available, and use it when requested. While he did not oppose the idea of metal detectors, Hunter noted that there were ways around those safeguards, and sometimes constituents might dispose of dangerous weapons just outside in the parking lot or nearby alley prior to entering the hospital; and there was the issue of keeping the staff stationed immediately near the detectors safe as well.
“San Gorgonio is really, really safe compared to other hospitals I’ve worked at,” Hunter said.
In a statement after the meeting, Tankersly said “Over the past 20 years I’ve worked at hospitals in the Inland Empire and Orange County, and this is not uncommon at all: sometimes trades workers with tools in their pockets, or someone coming in from camping, or with some outdoor sporting injury, or a person experiencing homelessness who may need to open a can to eat, or have a knife to help build shelter, and for protection — these people don’t intend harm, but they or an associate may be accidentally injured by a sharp object in the course of care. From speaking with security over the years, and from my experience treating inmates in hospitals and jails, I can say that those who we might think of as criminals leave their weapons outside. They don’t want the extra attention.”
He lauded San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital’s staff for its increasing diligence and readiness in light of the hospital’s safety training.
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , and messages may be left at (951) 849-4586 x114.