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After fatal shooting of guard, Legacy Health plans new security measures


The system is installing metal detectors and giving guards stun guns. Bobby Smallwood, an unarmed security guard, was killed in a maternity unit.

Legacy Health in Oregon is bolstering its security following the fatal shooting of a security guard.

Legacy Health is installing metal detectors after the fatal shooting of a security guard. Bobby Smallwood, who was unarmed, was killed while protecting patients and staff at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. (Photo: Legacy Health)

Legacy Health is installing metal detectors after the fatal shooting of a security guard. Bobby Smallwood, who was unarmed, was killed while protecting patients and staff at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. (Photo: Legacy Health)

The health system is installing metal detectors, among other steps, Kathryn Correia, Legacy Health president and CEO, announced on the system’s website.

Bobby Smallwood, a security guard, was shot and killed in the maternity ward of Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland on July 22. Smallwood, who was 44, was unarmed, and he died protecting staff and patients, OregonLive.com reported. One other employee was injured, and the suspect was shot and killed by Portland police, authorities said.

Legacy Health is placing metal detectors in all of the system’s eight hospitals and will be performing bag searches, Correia said in the notice published July 29. Metal detectors are being installed at some hospitals this week, and others will be added to other hospitals soon, she said.

In addition, Legacy is equipping lead security officers with stun guns, Correia said. Stun guns will be provided to all security officers when they complete training and certification.

The system is also installing security film designed to slow bullets on main entrances, emergency departments, and on glass in internal entrances.

Senior leaders have been working with the security team on added measures to protect patients and staff. Correia also said the system is talking with employees to ensure the steps reflect their safety concerns.

“This team has been careful, thoughtful and collaborative in considering how new measures may affect our people, our patients and our communities,” Correia said.

Legacy is providing the hospitals additional flexibility to develop other enhanced security measures, Correia says. And the system is also developing other plans to improve safety across its 100 healthcare locations.

The system continues to mourn Smallwood. Employees gathered Saturday to "honor our memory of Bobby and his dedication to protecting others," Correia said.

“The emotional toll of this shooting continues to ripple across our 14,000 Legacy employees and into the communities we serve,” Correia said in the statement.

The shooting joins a growing list of violent incidents involving healthcare workers, and some have called for greater protection for healthcare workers.

The Oregon Nurses Association said in a July 26 statement that violence against healthcare workers is “all too common.”

“It is the responsibility of every health care system and hospital administration in Oregon to do everything in their power to protect the safety of their patients and frontline caregivers,” the association said.

“For example, ONA has heard complaints from our members at various facilities across the state about hospital management being painfully slow to respond to nurses’ concerns,” the group said. “Specifically, our members note management’s failure to install metal detectors after years of pressure from nurses and other health care workers to do so. Additionally, nurses often report that, once installed, metal detectors are not appropriately staffed and that security personnel are being overwhelmed by their duties due to chronic understaffing.”

Just last month, Ben Mauck, a hand surgeon, was fatally shot in an orthopedic clinic outside Memphis, Tenn. A police officer was shot and killed in the emergency department of a hospital in southern Indiana in July. A CDC employee was fatally shot at a medical complex owned by Northside Hospital in Atlanta in May, and four others were wounded in the shooting.

More hospitals are taking steps such as installing metal detectors or additional cameras, Paul Sarnese, a security consultant, told Chief Healthcare Executive® last month. Some systems are also adding K-9 units, says Sarnese, who previously oversaw security efforts at Virtua Health in New Jersey.

Health systems that want to improve security should be talking to employees to get their perspective, he says.

“Organizations can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in security investments, and the employees will still not feel safe. So you really have to engage the employees, the physicians, the residents, everybody that's coming in and really kind of gauge their perception of security,” he says.

Lawmakers have been pushing measures for years to give healthcare workers greater protections. Some in Congress are seeking to change federal law to raise the penalties for assaulting hospital workers, mirroring protections for airline employees.

(See part of our conversation with Paul Sarnese on hospital security. He spoke with Chief Healthcare Executive at the American Hospital Association Leadership Summit.)

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