North Carolina hospital has well-rounded security
North Carolina hospital has well-rounded security

Jun 1, 1999 12:00 PM

Because it has the second busiest emergency room in North Carolina, with approximately 63,000 visits per year, Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, N.C., pays particular attention to emergency room security. There is a special ER alarm system - an emergency component of the hospital's nurse call system - which is wired directly into the security control room, where a display light goes on when an ER employee presses a button. Keypad access also bolsters ER security.The hospital takes a proactive approach to security, notes James P. Finn, manager of safety and security services. "Emergency Room personnel will inform us ahead of time when they have a situation they believe has the potential to escalate," says Finn, "and we send personnel in early."In addition, ahospital-wide paging system is set up with special "codes" that reflect specific emergency situations for which procedures are in place. One code, for instance, calls for all male and security personnel to respond to a particular location; other codes indicate medical emergencies, such as a heart attack.Defining the areas of greatest need and securing them with alarms, cameras and access control are part of Gaston Memorial Hospital's focused and well-planned approach to security. Budgetary considerations frequently require that health care facilities install their security systems in increments, first covering areas of greatest impact. For instance, management at Gaston believed in the impact of a new ID badging system. Until a year and a half ago, providing ID badges for the 2,600 employees at Gaston Memorial's main campus was slow, cumbersome and inefficient. Routine changes - the hiring of a new employee, change of status for an existing one, or a termination -might take up to a week."With our previous system, we would have to wait until we had four employees' pictures before we could produce the ID badges. There were many manual steps involved, such as cutting out the pictures, sticking them on the badge, typing information on it, putting it in the laminator, punching a hole for a strap. Employees had to be scheduled to get their pictures taken," says David Frum, manager, personnel services for the 442-bed hospital.

Gaston Memorial is located on a 96-acre campus with five buildings - the main hospital, an outpatient/ambulatory care facility, a diagnostic center, nursing home, and medical office building. Since upgrading the badging process, Frum's office can produce a badge in five minutes. Employees may come in any time of the day, have their pictures taken, and sit in a waiting room while a staff member in the personnel department processes and produces the ID card.The system includes a digital camera that comes with a tripod, power adapter, memory card and cables that connect to a dedicated computer through an RS-232 serial connection, which uses an available com port on the computer. Installed in the computer is a software program that runs on Windows 95 and controls the design of the card, the text, bar codes and mag stripes.

In addition, the software interfaces with an existing database that contains vital employee information. The hospital's installer set up fields for pertinent employee information that would be imprinted onto the ID cards. The fields are for such data as first and last name, title, credentials and department. Badges are color-coded for departments. Once the employee's picture is taken and pertinent information put into the program, the badge is produced on a printer with an attached laminator. An RS-422 interface cable built into the laminator attaches to an options port on the printer. The printer motherboard constantly looks for attached accessories to enable point-and-click operation of units such as the laminator. The printer in conjunction with a software program can produce virtually any type of ID card. And the laminator, also called a heat roller, is capable of producing a variety of cards with overlays that can be customized for design and durability. "The system is easy to use and virtually anyone in our 10-person department can use it, although we delegate the job to three of our clerical employees," says Frum. "When an employee transfers to a different department, we no longer need to retake their picture. Because we already have the photo and data in our computer, we simply change their job title and other identifying data and produce a new card.

"Keypad access control In areas where greater security is needed, the hospital uses a keypad access control system consisting of numbered keypads with magnetic door locks. The keypads are built into the walls next to doors to such areas as the Emergency Room; special care and birthing centers in the main hospital; and buildings on campus housing the nursing home and diagnostic center. Codes to these keypads are changed several times a year. In addition to the badge system, Gaston Memorial uses a CCTV system consisting of 65 cameras placed at locations such as the two-level parking deck, the outside of the main hospital building, the loading dock, employee walkway, facilities services building, the front lobby and the birthing center. The camera points are continuously displayed on five 25-inch monitors in the security control room. Cameras are hardwired into multiplexers which are then connected to monitors. "We have a multiplexer and VCR for each of the five monitors," explains Finn.

There are nine pan/tilt/zoom cameras located both inside and outside the buildings. A burglar alarm system also has been helpful in keeping exit stairwell doors secure. The system covers approximately 10 doors; individual alarm devices are wired to a control panel. The control panel is hard-wired directly into a PC in the fire control room. From that PC, a wire connects to the printer in the security control room, which prints out alarm data. Fifteen stand-alone alarm systems also operate in other hospital-administered buildings, such as medical office buildings on and off-campus. Security personnel are on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the hospital and the four other on-campus buildings. Finn's security staff performs internal, external and vehicular patrols and operates the security control center. All security officers are outfitted with radios. Gaston Memorial hopes to upgrade its security systems further and, to this end, is looking into an electronic access control system. The ID badges, at present, are not used for access control. But they do perform a significant security function. The quickness and ease of producing them assures that employees' ID badges reflect their true status - their actual position and department, for instance. "We sometimes have employees stop by to pick up a check for a co-worker," notes Frum. "We ask for a note from the co-worker authorizing the employee to pick up their check. We also look at the ID badge of the person." Now, chances are excellent that the ID badge will be current, making== release of the check more secure.

Areas of greatest need have been identified clearly and addressed by the hospital's security program. The badge and printing system, extensive CCTV coverage, alarms at doors to vulnerable areas such as the birthing center, ER, intensive care units, and an emergency call system to deal with specific security or medical crises all combine to make Gaston Memorial Hospital's security efficient and effective. Equipment at Gaston Memorial Equipment in use at Gaston Memorial Hospital includes a Nisca PR5100 ID card printer, with an attached Nisca PR5100 heat roller unit (laminator). Nisca Corp. is headquartered in Yamanashi-Ken, Japan. Kanematsu USA, Sommerset, N.J., distributes the Nisca Products. Integrated ID Systems Inc., Charlotte, N.C., installed the badging system. According to Paul Mullen, manager, Nisca Products, the PR5100 has been designed for ease of use, with easy printhead removal. The PR5100 printhead consists of a cartridge plus all the accompanying electronic data loaded onto a ROM chip, which fits into a slot in back of the printer. A Kodak DC 50 digital camera connects to a serial port on the computer to which the printer is connected through an RS-232 protocol. Episuite Lite 3.0 software by G&A Imaging, Quebec, Canada, is installed in a dedicated Comp-USA computer and controls the design and organization of the Laminex Cards, produced by D&K Laminex Inc., Charlotte, N.C. The Episute software interfaces with a Microsoft Access 2.0 database. Wescom Inc. manufactures the nurse call system and its emergency component which is used for communication between the emergency room and security control room. Burglar alarm systems are manufactured by Moose Products, Tualatin, Oregon. Panasonic is one of the camera manufacturers, and monitors are Hitachi. Gyyr manufactured the VCRs. Radios used are manufactured by Motorola.

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