D.H. Medical Center Gets Safety Devices to Protect Staff and Patients

D.H. Medical Center Gets Safety Devices to Protect Staff and Patients

May 26, 2015 – Jordan Cuddemi

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has purchased 18 nonlethal handheld devices for its security officers, which are aimed at regaining control of an aggressive situation. Although the hospital has already received shipment of the devices, officers must undergo training before the equipment will be used. Officers will likely start using the devices in early July.  

Lebanon — Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will soon be the second hospital in New Hampshire to outfit its security officers with a “nonlethal device” that can record interactions with unruly patients or visitors, shine a laser pointer on them and even hit them with a stream of pepper gel.

Dan Dahmen, the security director for the Lebanon-based medical center, said he recently received a shipment of about 18 handheld devices that come equipped with a camera, audio recorder, siren, strobe light, laser spotter and pepper gel, all of which can be used in stages to defuse various types of high-stress situations inside the facility.

“We brought it onboard for patient and staff safety,” Dahmen said. “(It’s) a defensive tool, one that should be used rarely. But it adds something to be able to respond to a high-level situation.”

Currently, DHMC security officers are limited to verbal and hands-on de-escalation methods, and are only armed with handcuffs, he said.

But with the new devices, which resemble stun guns, officers will have additional options for defusing situations such as an assault, hospital officials said.

Asked about why they were arming officers with a weapon in a hospital, where the ethos is to heal people and to do no harm, DHMC officials said they had consulted with the chairman of their clinical ethics committee, Dr. Tim Lahey.

In a statement provided by DHMC, Lahey said in instances when verbal and hands-on techniques won’t suffice, being prepared with additional measures, such as those provided by the new devices, “makes sense.”

“Balancing risk and benefit is the soul of medicine,” Lahey said, in part, in the statement. “Hospitals are places of caring and concern and healing, but no responsible modern hospital can avoid the reality that in very rare instances individual patients can become combative.”

The Pro V2 device, launched in 2013 by manufacturer Guardian 8, has three different response levels that an officer can deploy to “de-escalate a threat,” according to the company’s website.

The first response level includes the activation of a laser pointer, or spotter, to alert the subject that an officer is investigating a situation. A camera and an audio recording also would start rolling.

If additional response was needed to defuse a situation, the officer could initiate a “level 2 response” by pulling the device’s trigger half-way. That would initiate a siren and strobe light, “both of which disorient the aggressor,” and sends an alert message to another officer, according to Guardian 8’s website.

Lastly, an officer has the option to fully pull the trigger, which would deploy a stream of pepper gel, a chemical that causes temporary irritation to a person’s eyes.

“Security officers have traditionally been equipped as ‘armed’ or ‘unarmed’ without an intermediate choice for defense or deterrence,” according to the company’s website. “The Pro V2 fills this intermediate need for an effective nonlethal response.”

According to a worker rights brochure on OSHA’s website, “Between 2011 and 2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 and 25,630 annually, with 70 to 74 percent occurring in health care and social service settings.”

Hospitals can be prone to violence, Dahmen said, and the device should increase safety at the hospital.

“Right now, our ability to intervene in an assault situation is limited,” he said.

“The implementation of the new safety protection, Layered Defense & Incident Recording Device (the Pro V2),” DHMC spokesman Michael Barwell said, via email, “is the latest in a series of efforts to safeguard our visitors and patients, including a visitor management program implemented last fall, that includes restricting access and requiring visitors to register and wear badges after normal hours.”

The hospital already received the devices, which were purchased for around $300 a piece through money in the security department’s operating budget, but each officer must complete a daylong training session before carrying the device.

Security supervisors were trained on the devices earlier this month, and Dahmen said he is waiting for the arrival of training materials so he and others can train each officer at DHMC.

If all goes well, officers should be carrying the devices by July, he said.

A couple of years ago, hospital officials asked Dahmen to investigate how his department could best respond to an assault-type situation.

Alternatives to the device, he said, were to just purchase pepper spray foam. He also looked into purchasing different types of handguns.

However, this device was the most attractive, he said.

“It has the ability to record the incident,” he said. “And it gives you the ability to level your response. I was looking for a device that I felt could best provide or respond to safety needs and do so in the least lethal way.”

DHMC officials declined to speculate on the number of incidents they believe could have been avoided if these devices were in place sooner.

DHMC is following suit with Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, N.H., which was the first hospital to purchase the same devices.

Monadnock Security Supervisor Lou Chatel, who serves on the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety organization with Dahmen, said he purchased four devices for his officers, who patrol a facility with just 25 inpatient beds compared to DHMC’s 400.

Chatel said he purchased the devices because violence in health care facilities is on the rise nationally. In addition, he said these particular devices act as a visual deterrent because of their shape, which is key for a hospital in a rural setting like Peterborough.

Area police departments, he said, may have slower response times to assist security officers with an assault-type situation.

“I have seen an increase in violence throughout the country,” Chatel said. “Luckily, here we are OK, but I would be negligent not to be prepared.”

Although he purchased the devices at the end of last year, he said they haven’t hit the floor yet because the hospital is still setting up secure software to house the audio and video recordings from the devices. They should be up and running by July.

“I am proud to say we are the first hospital in the state of New Hampshire to have them,” Chatel said.

Author, Jordan Cuddemi, Valley News Staff Writer, can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

For more information, visit https://www.healthcarefacilitiestoday.com