Creating Safer Hospital Environment with Security Program

Forsyth Medical Center is a non-profit regional medical center with 847 acute-care beds. Coupled with the nearby 136-bed Medical Park Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it ranks among the largest, best-equipped hospital facilities in the state.

Forsyth Medical Center

Forsyth is widely recognized for the excellence in care it provides to all who use its services. While the hospital has stayed at the forefront of medical technology over the years, its security had become outdated by the time Tony Potter took over as Director of Public Safety in 2003. ¨We only had 35 cameras throughout the facility. The hospital was losing tools and equipment at an alarming rate,〃 said Potter. ¨It quickly became apparent that we needed to make improvements and update our access control systems. We realized that we were not even scratching the surface of the security system capability.〃

Hospital Undergoes Extreme Security Makeover

Forsyth management decided to implement GE Secure Perfect as an access control system and use ID badges throughout the hospital. One of the benefits of the system was that it provided broad integration possibilities with all other currently used systems. By the end of 2004, all old systems were conver ted. ¨We went with this system because our hospital administrators wanted smooth and total integration: one badge for all areas within our hospital,〃 said Potter.

The access control system also integrates smoothly with GE digital video recorders, fire system and panic alarms. In alarm situations or unauthorized entry attempts, the video is tagged automatically and incidents are located instantly. Panic alarms are used in areas such as Behavioral Health or cash-handling areas, where an emergency might develop. Strobe lights on the console light up if the alarms are triggered. Color-coding helps communication technicians keep track and respond quickly to all emergency situations. Orange strobes flash for intrusion alarms or if refrigerators go above a certain temperature. Red strobes go off for the duress or panic alarms. ¨We installed an access control system so that there is no chance of missing an alarm,〃 continued Potter. ¨Communication technicians are trained and on staff 24/7. They monitor CCTV, access control and are also responding as the dispatchers. Our communication technicians are treated the same and paid the same as public safety, or uniformed, officers.

Planning for the Future

With a $49 million capital expansion campaign and plans to double its size by 2010, almost everything installed is reusable, except wiring, and only because it is not cost effective. Because of the size and constant needs of the hospital, integration is done incrementally. Every thing including space is re-used and equipment is moved around.

¨Rather than implementing security as an afterthought, now the security plan is being proactively designed into the new facilities," reports Potter. "During the design phase of the new conference center, we were ready to sit down with an architect and bring the needs of nurses, doctors, and patients to the table. Security is operational and not just an add-on.〃

In comparison, a retrofit could be twice the cost and still be much less effective. Today, 140 cameras are installed, with additional space and plans for 300 more in a new five-level garage, a new conference center and a nine-story patient tower.

"Some projects require careful planning even before the foundation is laid,〃 comments Potter. ¨The new parking garage is using pre-tension concrete so any kind of drilling will affect the structural integrity. Once it is cast, you cannot drill. All security must be designed in.〃 Before any construction was started, Potter already knew where everything would be in the 9-story tower, including wiring, readers, and cameras. He works closely with the IT department on each project.

Nuts and Bolts of Running Extensive Security System

To help coordinate and provide total access control for its 4,700 employees, Potter uses proximity cards. All cards have a photo, name, credentials, hospital logo and one of eight different colors at the bottom to help designate different types of people. Also, a different background is used to indicate the year the photo is taken. Each photo is valid for five years.

Some specific, higher security areas require both the card and keypad. The pharmacy includes a duress code so that if an employee is forced to open the pharmacy, he can key in a duress code, which will notify police and security will respond.

¨One of the great benefits of Secure Per fect is its flexibility to use multiple mediums for access control,〃reports Potter. ¨We encourage employees to be dropped off and picked up to free up parking. Spouses or drivers are given a photo-less proxy-card to open the parking gate. Photo-less cards are also distributed to the family members who attend the Fitness Center. There are some internal areas that require the use of the prox card such as emergency, pharmacy and operating rooms.〃

The access control system integrates smoothly with GE digital video recorders. In alarm situations or unauthorized entry attempts, the video is tagged automatically and incidents are located instantly. The task to monitor five different areas where employees can enter the hospital is now much easier and Potter doesn not have to move to lock everything up after 5 pm.

System Proves Itself

The GE system has helped prevent and solve numerous security incidents. Last year, five newly installed cameras in receiving (1-PTZ, 4-fixed) helped prevent a robbery. Only three weeks after installation, two suspicious people were spotted as they grabbed goods, mostly computer equipment that totaled $23,000 in value. The cost of the new camera system was $18,000.

¨In just three weeks we justified the price of these cameras,〃 said Potter. ¨Security systems help us to save money and increase security. We are able to aid in police investigation cases because everything is recorded on DVRs for 30 days.〃

When two young men were effectively stopped from breaking into employeesˇ cars, the hospital security team was able to provide the police with a CD filled with detailed information for the prosecution of the case.

Not only does Secure Perfect integrate systems, but it also connects people and patrol officers. The hospital uses Wavereader software, which is also installed on all executive systems, allowing for off-campus viewing from multiple locations. Now, communication technicians are able to direct an officer to a particular spot and while viewing the monitor, tell him who to look for, what they look like, and where they are standing with very detailed information.
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