Philadelphia hospital outlines security changes after shooting at facility

In the aftermath of a fatal shooting that took place inside Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the Philadelphia-based organization is making security changes as it continues to analyze its procedures.

The shooting occurred Oct. 4 on the ninth floor of the hospital and resulted in the death of Anrae James, a 43-year-old certified nursing assistant who was pronounced dead shortly after he was shot. The suspected shooter, 55-year-old nursing assistant Stacey Hayes, allegedly shot and killed Mr. James before wounding two officers in a shootout with police. Mr. Hayes has been charged with murder in the death of Mr. James.

Since the shooting, "our only concern has been the safety and well-being of our employees, patients and students. We are micro-analyzing our security procedures to ensure we fully understand what we could have changed or done differently," Jefferson Health spokesperson John Brand said in a news release shared with Becker's.

Mr. Brand said a preliminary investigation showed that process deficiencies, as well as human error, contributed to delayed hospital emergency communications.

"It is important to stress that the outcome would not have been different in this specific case," he said. "We are very fortunate that [the Oct. 4] incident did not result in more injuries." 

According to Mr. Brand, the hospital's process is to communicate emergencies through overhead paging in the clinical building where the event is taking place.

However, the overhead communication system "was not used effectively" in this instance, Mr. Brand said.

"Delays in using our overhead communication system resulted in our team members learning about the shooting through JeffAlert, text messages and/or social media. We also initiated a 'code blue' alert before an alert of an active shooter, drawing a response team to the area where the shooting occurred," he said. "Although we knew the shooter had left, this was a protocol error."

While the hospital systems and additional investments in security — including the Strongline safety badge, turnstiles at entrances, an armed Jefferson police force and metal detectors in emergency rooms — likely would not have prevented the Oct. 4 tragedy, he said the hospital is "committed to putting in place appropriate changes that will improve our processes and ability to communicate in 'real time.'"

The hospital outlined various changes it is making or has made as the investigation related to the shooting continues.

Among them are:

  • Increasing security staff
  • Additional training with all security personnel
  • Working with Philadelphia police for greater presence on campus
  • Initiating a more vigilant screening process for more entrances
  • Reducing entrances to the main hospital after hours
  • Closing ground-level entrances that are not staffed
  • Improving procedures for overhead pages 

"We are committed to the safety of our employees, patients, students, faculty and community members, and will continue to analyze and evaluate this incident while setting a course of action that is tangible and meaningful," Mr. Brand said.

A motive for the shooting remains unclear, although police have said that Mr. James was targeted, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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