Duke hospitals to install weapons detectors

Duke University Health System is boosting security measures at its hospitals as part of efforts to address the safety of workers, patients and visitors. 

Weapons detection systems will be installed beginning the week of Feb. 13 at the main public entrances to Duke University, Duke Regional and Duke Raleigh hospitals, the Durham, N.C.-based health system said in a Feb. 7 news release.

Health system spokesperson Sarah Avery told Becker's the systems are not metal detectors, meaning medical devices such as pacemakers, metal rods and clips will not set off alarms or require special access.

Hospital leaders said the additional security is in response to the increase in violence at healthcare facilities nationwide.

"We are committed to providing a safe environment for all those we serve," Ian Brown, chief employee experience officer at Duke University Health System and executive sponsor of systemwide workplace violence prevention efforts, said in a news release. "As acts of violence in healthcare settings began escalating, we made a pledge to redouble efforts to address safety. These devices are a direct result of that commitment."

Over the last year, Duke University Health System has been focused on security efforts, including those put in place after an attack last summer left an emergency room nurse unconscious and with facial fractures. 

Efforts include enhanced security presence at hospital and clinic locations; additional emergency alert support to care teams; signage condemning aggressive behavior; staff training on de-escalation tactics; and fewer entrances being accessible to visitors, the health system said.

The weapons detection systems, which are similar to those used in public buildings and designed to detect firearms and other weapons, will go online in phases through early March. Duke University Health System said patients and visitors can opt for screening with a hand wand, and workers with badges won't be screened. 

Other hospitals and health systems have worked to address violence against workers. For example, Bennington-based Southwestern Vermont Health Care recently announced a new policy to prevent aggressive and violent behavior toward its employees.

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