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Keeping Hospitals Safe and Secure With Access ID Cards

Sep 6, 2008
Security is increasingly important throughout the health services industry. We read in the papers of violent behaviour affecting both management and staff in hospitals and because of these reports there are a substantial proportion of general hospital staff who actively fear becoming a victim of violent crime while at work.

Hospitals present a unique problem when considering how to approach the issue of security. They are generally large buildings, open to the public for much of the time, and with a very large number of entrances and exits. It is virtually impossible to control access to a hospital without preventing the day-to-day function of the service. Additionally, many hospitals sprawl over very large areas of grounds, with different buildings for different functions. It is impossible for staff to know each other, and with the daily to and fro of patients and their friends and relatives this is a tricky mix.

Reports suggest that violence, sexual harassment, theft and damage are the main problems within a hospital - but what can be done to reduce this crime?

Using access control is suitable in some situations, such as in paediatric units or geriatric units. Also storeage areas, especially those containing drugs and needles must be closely controlled. Traditionally, access has been restricted with a key system, but keys can be duplicated. This is worsened if a master key is stolen or duplicated - criminals can then gain access to any area they want, and all locks need to be re-keyed.

A more modern approach is to use an electronic access card solution. Traditional approaches include bar code ID cards, magnetic strip cards and wiegand cards, but all of these have limitations. Increasingly, hospitals are turning to proximity cards. These can be linked to a sophisticated system, allowing certain people access to specific areas. A record can be kept of entry and exit so that any criminal activity can be monitored and prevented easily.

Where controlled access is needed, an access ID system, linked to automatic door hardware is required, but the costs per door of this come down dramatically when a whole hospital is being upgraded.

The next item which many hospitals are implementing is what is known as a "tour" system for security guards. This involves each guard having their own access or ID card. Checkpoints are set up around the hospital campus, and the guard is required to visit and secure each area in turn, using his access card to "clock in" the visit at each point. This ensures that all of the critical areas are patrolled in a timely manner, and that the security staff are not tempted to miss any important areas.

Outlying areas of hospitals must be monitored by a CCTV system, and this can be linked to an alarm system, so that any intruders are quickly noticed and the security staff can deal with them appropriately. If this is linked to an electronic ID or access system, it is possible to allow access to the specific members of staff who are allowed to the remote or outlying area, without needing to actively involve the security staff in opening the doors.

A complete security review of a hospital will also include equiping key staff members and security with a radio system, so that any suspicious activity can be discreetly notified. This can be added to with a comprehensive panic alarm system. A panic system gives staff access to a panic button in each of the rooms that they work in, so that if a patient or visitor becomes aggressive they can press the button to alert other members of staff and the guards.

A hospital must remain an open building, but using access cards and other technologies, the environment can be made as safe and secure as possible for the staff and the public.
About the Author
F.Bradfield is a writer and web designer who provides content for 'The Cardnetwork' (http://www.thecardnetwork.co.uk), the best known producer of ID Cards, ID card printers and ID card supplies in Great Britain.
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