Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Sick security - No protection for patients and staff at St Ann's Bay Hospital

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Needles, along with other medication, carelessly left on a desk in an office at the St Ann's Bay Hospital.

It appears that the administrators at the St Ann's Bay Hospital have not learnt any lessons from the attacks on patients and staff at other health facilities across the island.

The St Ann's Bay facility now operates with minimum security, allowing persons to enter the compound, the accident and emergency (A&E) unit, and the outpatients area at will.

Despite travelling with a drawstring bag, no one thought it prudent to search a member of our news team who wandered around the facility for almost 24 hours.

On day one of our visit, a security guard asked the reporter if he was in possession of a weapon. With a response of "No", the reporter was allowed to continue even as the female security guard declared, "You look like the weapon type".

A sign indicating that persons would be subjected to metal detector scans was only that, a sign, as no such equipment was observed. When a security guard at the door was asked about the location of the metal detector, he responded with a hearty laugh.

That night, our news team entered the hospital through A&E. At the entrance, a security guard questioned if he could be of assistance, but on being told that the reporter was there to see a doctor, entry was allowed.

Our news team was also able to enter the rooms where patients were examined, as well as the orthopaedic room, which was left open, with patients' files lying about.

Nicole Dawkins, senior medical officer at the institution, explained the seeming lax in security.

"The security company was recently changed, and they are, unfortunately, younger security officers. We had a meeting with the security ... because there is laxity," she told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Unfortunately, most of the security that are here now are not trained yet, but that's a phased programmed. They don't have the numbers to maintain a pool, so sometimes they send persons who are working here for the first time, and this is a specialist area. There is a serious concern where security is concerned," added Dawkins.

A short while later, there was evidence that staff and patients at the hospital could be in danger as a young man, with a tam pulled down to his forehead and a handkerchief covering the lower half of his face, roamed the A&E, with only his eyes visible. No one checked his reason for being in the area as he scanned faces intently, obviously looking for someone.

"The latest trend is to have people who are not security trained to do security work here, and it is going to backfire," said a porter as he lamented the poor security arrangements.

"They had a standoff down here (recently) and it showed," he said, referring to an incident where a man, who was said to be of unsound mind and HIV-positive, behaved boisterously in a bid to be attended to.

It was reported that the man punched out the glass in the door at the A&E unit, causing chaos, as he was wounded, causing blood to contaminate the area while hospital personnel struggled to restrain him.

"You a go find out say you going to have more and more chaos," warned the porter.

The Sunday Gleaner was also told of a recent incident where a customer service representative, in the outpatients department. was beaten with an umbrella by a patient who did not like the service she was getting. That customer service representative reportedly suffered a broken finger.

There were also reports of an incident where a man threatened to "shoot up" the hospital if his baby died.

A nurse related stories of treating patients, on two separate occasions, who declared that they were carrying guns.

"A patient came in and I was about to do a blood test when he told me that he was a licensed firearm holder and that he had his gun on him. I asked him if he had declared it to the security, and he said yes. I asked him what was his state of mind right now, given that he had to wait a while, because if he was upset, I was not staying in the room with him.

"On another occasion, another man came in and he said to me, 'Nurse, I don't want you to be scared, but I have a gun on me'. I asked him if he had declared it to the security, and he said no. He wanted his brother to come and collect it," the nurse told The Sunday Gleaner.

Responding to the security concerns, Leon Gordon, chairman of the North East Regional Health Authority, argued that going to a hospital was different from going to a maximum security place because persons should have relatively easy access to hospitals.

"Most persons who go there go because they are ill and they want treatment," said Gordon.

"St Ann's Bay location is a very tranquil area where we do not have gunmen rampaging, and that sort of thing.

"There can never be a 100 per cent security guarantee at any place, and so yes, we have a concern about security.

"If there are security lapses, which can happen, once they are brought to our attention and once we have investigated them for ourselves, then we take corrective actions.

"We don't have a history of St Ann's Bay where every day, patients slapping up customer service reps, or slapping nurse, or slapping doctors," added Gordon.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com