New DHMC policy tightens security

by Lucia McGloin | 10/27/14 6:40pm

Enhanced security policies at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Lebanon campus began on Monday, restricting entry and requiring visitor registration during evening and overnight visiting hours. The initiative comes not in response to a particular incident but part of a national trend to increase hospital security, DHMC spokesperson Mike Barwell said.

The new procedures apply seven days a week, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., according to a DHMC press release. Under the new policy, the hospital will restrict entry to the North Entrance from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. and the Emergency Department Entrance from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Evening and overnight visitors must register at the designated entry points, and identification information will be entered in an electronic visitor management system. Authorized visitors will be given a temporary pass.

The policy does not affect Dartmouth-Hitchcock or Geisel Medical School students and staff, who have badges that provide access at all times. Staff and students without a badge must register at a controlled entry points.

Barwell said he hopes the new procedures will make employees, staff and patients at DHMC feel safer.

Other Upper Valley hospitals have implemented similar security measures.

Vice president of clinical and support services at Cheshire Medical Center Paul Pezone said that Cheshire has similar procedures, such as restricted access from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a sign in and badge process for visitors.

In addition, Cheshire Medical Center, a hospital in Keene that announced a partnership with DHMC in February, has increased security staff and enhanced security training programs. These tightened security measures not only reduce violence and theft but also improve the comfort level of staff at the hospital, Pezone said.

Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital spokesperson Peter Glenshaw said the Lebanon hospital restricts visitor entry after 10:30 p.m., but does not require visitors to have a badge. He said that this is because Alice Peck Day Memorial is a 25-bed hospital with a “smaller footprint” than larger facilities such as DHMC.

There has been an increase in violent crimes in U.S. hospitals in recent years, said Karim H. Vellani, president of security consulting firm Threat Analysis Group. Vellani was the lead author on a heath care and crime report released this year, which assessed crime in hospitals in Canada and the U.S. Vellani and his team reported that the violent crime rate per 100 hospital beds in the U.S. rose 25 percent from 2012 to 2013.

DHMC’s new policy of restricting facility entry points is a popular hospital security measure, Vellani said. When they were built, most hospitals were designed with multiple entries, and many have taken similar measures to reduce the easy entry.

DHMC security director Dan Dahmen could not be reached for comment by press time.