LEE COUNTY — Lee Memorial Hospital near downtown Fort Myers may soon be the safest hospital in Lee County.
The 355-bed hospital is the first of four Lee Memorial Health System campuses where public entrances are being equipped with Fast-Pass identification systems to improve safety for patients, visitors and employees.
Visitors will present a state-issued identification with a photograph and the system prints an adhesive photo badge with the person’s photograph and date of visit, said Lee Memorial spokeswoman Mary Briggs. Although the temporary badges print out in seconds, the process could mean a delay for visitors.
In addition, six more security officers have been hired so there can be security officers stationed at the public entrances, Briggs said.
Leaders of the public hospital system began looking at enhancing security at the public entrances last December although the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was not the sole reason for taking stronger safety measures.
“It is something we have been thinking about for a while,” Briggs said.
In Collier County, the NCH Healthcare System has been using the Fast-Pass system for several years to screen visitors at The Birth Place at NCH North Naples Hospital, said John Griffith, NCH’s director of security.
The West Palm Beach-based SISCO, the company that markets Fast-Pass, has 70 hospital clients nationwide with 34 of them based in Florida, likely because the company’s most immediate reach is in Florida, said David Seltzer, SISCO’s marketing director.
Hospital security in Southwest Florida came into the limelight when 54-year-old Jeffrey L. Moretz, of Golden Gate Estates, was charged with shooting and killing his estranged wife, Christine Moretz at Physicians Regional-Pine Ridge on July, 5, 2011, when she was visiting someone at the hospital. Moretz is awaiting trial.
A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine last fall found shootings in hospitals are rare and the shooter typically has a target, according to the findings published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
About 30 percent of hospital shootings occur in the emergency departments, according to the study. Half the time, a police officer or security officer fired an assailant or the assailant stole the firearm from the officer.
Lee Memorial will have a Fast-Pass system in place at each of the three public entrances to the hospital in early March, Briggs said.
The system has been in use for some time already in the emergency department for visitors and in plant operations for contractors and other vendors when they enter the premises. Each Fast-Pass system costs $6,300.
The next hospital to be equipped will be Gulf Coast Hospital in central Fort Myers. Briggs did not have rollout dates for HealthPark Medical Center south of Fort Myers or for Cape Coral Hospital.
A measure that has not been adopted is use of metal detectors but it is an option, Briggs said.
There are security officers at NCH’s emergency rooms at North Naples and Downtown Naples hospitals.
“It has been a long-standing practice at NCH to restrict visitor access in the evening to the emergency department entrances where there is a security officer posted,” Griffith, the security director, said in a statement. “The safety of our visitors, patients and staff is always our priority and we continue to work closely with the Naples Police Department and Collier County Sheriff’s Office to provide a safe environment.”
At Physicians Regional’s Pine Ridge and Collier Boulevard hospitals, an extensive video surveillance system is used and there is 24-hour security at the hospitals, said spokeswoman Taylor Hamilton.
“Also Physicians Regional has an established emergency management committee that reviews all security-related policies and coordinates drills, both internal and external, that exercise our ability to respond appropriately when security issues and or concerns arise.”