The attacks on American medical centers show why health care is one of the most violent areas in the country

The attacks on American medical centers show why health care is one of the most violent areas in the country

Word broke at an Oregon hospital last month that a visitor was causing trouble in the maternity ward, and nurses were warned the man might try to kidnap his partner’s baby.

hours later, A visitor shoots, killing a security guard and sending patients, nurses and doctors scrambling for coverage.

The shooting at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland was part of a wave of gun violence that has gripped American hospitals and medical centers, which are struggling to cope with the growing threats.

Attacks like these have helped make health care one of the most violent areas in the country. Data shows that American healthcare workers now suffer more non-fatal injuries from workplace violence than workers in any other profession, including law enforcement.

“Health care workers don’t even think about it when they decide they want to be a nurse or a doctor. In terms of actual violence, statistically speaking, Michael D’Angelo, a former police officer who focuses on health care and workplace violence as a security consultant in Florida, said: Health care is four or five times more dangerous than any other profession.

Other industries outperform health care in terms of overall risk, including deaths.

Similar shootings occurred in hospitals across the country.

last year man Killed two Dallas hospital workers while there to witness the birth of his child. In May, man opened fire at a Atlanta Medical Center waiting room, killing one woman and injuring four. Late last month, a man shot and injured a doctor at a Dallas health center. In June 2022, Armed He killed his surgeon and three other people In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the medical office because he blamed the doctor for his constant pain after surgery.

And it’s not just fatal shootings: Health care workers caused 73% of all non-fatal workplace violence injuries in 2018, the latest year for which numbers are available, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A day before the July 22 shooting in Portland, staff throughout the hospital were warned during meetings to prepare for a possible “code amber” announcement in case a visitor attempted to abduct the child, according to a nurse with direct knowledge of the briefing. He spoke to the Associated Press. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals at work.

Fifteen minutes before the shooting, someone at the hospital had called 911 to report that the visitor was threatening the staff, according to a timeline provided by Portland police.

“It kind of fell through the cracks,” said the nurse. “I don’t know how many chances he’s had. It just kind of got to the point where the staff don’t know what to do, what they can or can’t do with him.”

The police arrived at the maternity ward within minutes, but it was too late. Bobby Smallwood, a security guard called in from another Legacy hospital to cover shifts for Good Samaritan’s understaffed security team, is shot. Another hospital employee was wounded by shrapnel. The suspect fled and was later killed by police in a nearby area.

The hospital refused to respond to the nurse’s statements because the case is still under investigation.

“Events like these are unpredictable, but our team demonstrated professionalism and a great deal of courage in the extremely difficult circumstances that day,” Legacy Health said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Legacy Health in Portland plans to install additional metal detectors, require bag searches at every hospital and send patients and visitors to controlled entrances. The hospital said that more security officers would be equipped with stun guns, and that some interior windows and main entrances would be covered with bullet-retardant film.

About 40 states have passed laws that create or increase penalties for violence against health care workers, according to the American Nurses Association. Hospitals have security officers armed with batons, tasers, or handguns, while some states, including Indiana, Ohio and Georgia, allow hospitals to set up their own police forces.

Critics say policing private hospitals could aggravate health care and police inequities that black people already suffer from. They also say that special police forces often do not have to disclose information such as how often they use force or whether they disproportionately detain members of minorities.

Deborah Burger, a registered nurse and president of the National Nurses Union, said security teams cannot address all of the factors that lead to violence because many are caused by a malfunctioning health care system.

Patients and families often go between emergency rooms and home, frustrated by high costs, limited treatment options, or long waiting times, Berger said.

“Hospitals don’t really have a complaints department, so the only real target they have is the nurse or staff standing right in front of them,” she said.

Staffing shortages force nurses to care for more patients and allow them less time to assess each other for behavior problems. Burger said efforts to reduce the escalation of aggression will not be effective if nurses do not have time to communicate with patients.

D’Angelo said the increasing nurse-to-patient ratios are “a very disastrous formula for increasing workplace violence”. “Now you don’t even have the good old buddy system of two co-workers watching each other.”

Burger said some hospital administrators encourage staff to please aggressive visitors and patients because they worry about getting bad reviews. That’s because the Affordable Care Act tied a portion of federal reimbursement rates to consumer satisfaction surveys and lower satisfaction means it reaches the financial bottom line.

“The results of these surveys should not take priority over employee safety,” D’Angelo said.

Workplace violence rates attributed to health care facilities are “grossly underreported,” said Eric Sean Clay, president-elect of the International Healthcare Security and Safety Association and vice president of security at Memorial Hermann Health in Houston.

“I think a lot of it is because the caregivers are just so forgiving, and they just see it as part of the job,” he said. “If they don’t get infected, sometimes they don’t want to report it, and sometimes they don’t think there will be any change.”

Clay’s hospital employs both armed and unarmed security officers, though he hopes to arm them all eventually.

“We actually have our own shooting range that we use,” Clay said. None of his security officers have drawn their weapons on the job in recent years, but he wants them to be prepared because of the rise in gun violence.

Clay and Memorial Hermann Health declined to answer questions about whether an armed security force could negatively affect access to health care or existing inequalities.

The Portland hospital nurse said the shooting left her colleagues with unusual horror and solemnity. She worries that Legacy Health’s promises of increased safety may be temporary because of the cost of finding, training and retaining security officers.

Some of her co-workers quit because they didn’t want to face another “token silver,” the alert that goes off when someone in the hospital has a gun.

“You know, we always say that these patients and their families are very vulnerable, because they are having the worst day of their lives here,” said the nurse, which makes many staff members reluctant to demand better behaviour.

She said, “We have to stop this narrative. Being weak is bleeding from a bullet wound in your chest. Being weak is having to lock yourself and your patients in a room because of a silver token.”

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