A Note About Security at SCMH

Allen Van Driel, CEOIn preparation for the height of flu season, we have been reviewing security at Smith County Memorial Hospital.

Patient care is our top priority. As many community members have noticed, there are several security measures at the new facility that we didn’t have at the old one. We had many conversations with staff and security experts in order to come up with the policies we currently employ. I recognize this is a change from the way things were at our old facility and there are lots of good reasons for this.

Controlling visitor access means that we can take better care of our patients. Patients need the opportunity to visit with their medical team. Our team of providers and nurses check in with patients throughout the day, but we have blocked out time in the morning to focus on reviewing patient care and making adjustments as needed. This is also a time to give medications, take vitals and generally check in with a patient. Only immediate family should be allowed for these consultations. This is why we have set visiting hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Medical precautions are necessary to prevent the spread of illness. Especially this time of year, we see an increase in the number of patients who need visitors to take special precautions. Our nursing staff must be able to stop and advise visitors who need to wear gowns or masks when visiting. Some patients may be in isolation and not able to have visitors. These precautions not only keep guests safe from illness, but they also prevent patients from getting sicker.

Patients have the right to refuse visitors. They don’t need to be accessible to visitors all hours of the day and we didn’t have the ability to help patients control this at the old facility. We can allow more patient control at the new facility and the security measures have been put in place to help patients rest and heal more comfortably.

Patient privacy is an important part of care and we take that seriously. Just as laws about patient information have changed over the years, so has the expectation that patient access should be allowed to anyone. Patients should feel comfortable sharing their need for privacy and the staff should help to facilitate that as desired.

All of the security measures we have in place are meant to support improved patient care and better attention to the healing process.

We take the safety of our staff seriously. Beyond accessing patient rooms, there are other secure areas of our campus. Shortly after we moved into the new facility, we invited a consultant from the Department of Homeland Security to make sure we were doing the right things to keep our staff safe.

Since that visit, we have added some additional security measures. We did this in partnership with our department managers and have found that staff feels much more comfortable doing their work since we have added security. Our staff wants to be able to focus on their work without the worry of interruption from intruders.

You may think this is extreme and our solution is more drastic than larger facilities. While you may not see them, larger facilities are teeming with security measures. They often have staff stationed in person or behind cameras 24/7 to help keep patients and staff safe. Our facility and budget are not large enough to have round-the-clock security personnel—we choose to spend our money on medical staff and equipment.

We have seen nearby facilities shut down completely to visitors to better care for their patients. Our hope is that we never have to totally shut the doors to guests because we know that visits from family and friends can be important in helping patients heal. That said, we are more closely adhering to our security policies as we see flu patients increase.

When you visit SCMH, you will be asked to wait in the lobby or waiting room prior to accessing the inpatient area. A nurse or CNA will escort visitors to the patient room and advise them of any precautions. There may be times that visitors are denied access at the patient’s request or because medical care should not be interrupted.

The security measures at SCMH are meant to improve patient care and create a safe work environment for our staff. We hope you will grow to appreciate these measures just as our patients and staff have.