It is very difficult to identify any antisocial element in the crowd or foresee anyone’s intensions. As a result, unexpected undesirable situations like arguments, noisy scenes, accidents or thefts do keep happening in the hospitals.
Although, safety and security is the responsibility of every staff member, the technical staff, being busy in patient care, have neither the time nor training in these matters. Patients, by and large, are incapable of protecting themselves or their belongings.
Therefore, the hospitals have a separate and specialized department called security service which is entrusted with the responsibility of watching over the entire hospital organization and preventing anything untoward (of nonmedical, nontechnical nature) from happening.
The role of security services is to prevent and handle any disturbance or breach in security, so that the hospital functioning can go on smoothly and without any disturbance.
Their core duties include the protection of hospital, its staff and property, the patients/public and their property, control the traffic and also run a lost and found service.
1. Infrastructure Required for an Effective Security Service:
To perform this role well, following are the essential requirements:
i. Physical facilities:
There should be a security office and a control room conveniently located on the ground floor and equipped with CCTV monitors and a good communication system.
The guard posts in the open should have proper enclosures for protection from weather as well as privacy of people during frisking.
ii. Organization and staffing:
The Security service must be headed by an experienced security officer fully trained in security techniques and procedures.
The supervisors and guards should be well trained, tough and mature persons and should include some female staff also to check/frisk or otherwise handle the female staff/visitors.
Staff requirement depends upon the size and type of the hospital and the number of posts to be manned. Often, there is a tendency on the part of the management to save the money by employing either inadequate strength or poor quality manpower which is not prudent as proved many a time.
These days, most of the hospitals prefer to outsource the security service to professional security agencies. If the service is outsourced, the contractor must be asked to submit a police verification certificate in respect of every person. It is also advisable that the hospital has its own supervisors to keep a watch over the working of outsourced staff in all the shifts.
A good communication system between security staff at various positions (walkie-talkie, mobiles, intercom, and whistles), adequate security lighting, torches, etc. are essential requirements.
CCTV cameras (of good quality) placed at strategic locations can be a great asset as they can enable the security officer to monitor various important areas of the hospital on the screens, simultaneously.
They, not only help in prevention of a crime but also in identifying the criminals. Similarly, in view of the increasing incidence of terrorist attacks, hospitals being the soft and likely targets must have metal detectors for screening of visitors as well as mirrors to look under the vehicles.
2. Operating Policies/Procedures:
i. Hospital should have a documented security manual for the hospital security service including policies and procedure covering every aspect of the security of patients, staff and the hospital property against any physical harm.
ii. The scope of their duty is to detect and prevent the commission of crime or any harm to hospital, its property, patient’s staff or public.
If anyone is caught committing a crime, the job of security staff is to apprehend the individual, inform the superiors, and prevent his /her escape until the arrival of police and then handover to the police.
While they may try to get the maximum information out of the person apprehended, they are not to punish or assault the individual unless it is in self defense. Any unlawful detention of suspects is to be avoided.
iii. They should be polite and yet firm: The hospitals are visited by a large number of people sick and suffering themselves or worried about the life and well-being of their dear ones.
They are likely to be emotionally tense and may be unusually edgy or easily irritated/agitated. This crowd is different from the one visiting the hotels, cinema halls, other public places.
The security staff would be well advised to be sensitive to their emotional state while checking/guiding their movement. Those joining the duty for the first time may require a certain briefing/training on this aspect.
iv. Charter of duties and responsibilities of all security staff posted at different locations should be documented and made known to all staff. They are expected to be proactive with main thrust towards prevention rather than after action.
v. A good security service should be unobtrusive and yet effective in implementing the hospital rules and regulations. They are expected to gather information and prevent or effectively handle whenever/wherever something wrong is likely to happen, has happened or is happening.
vi. There should be a procedure for gathering information/intelligence through day-today close observation of the staff as well as the visitors, by review and analysis of the CCTV footage collected through the cameras and sharing the information collected day to day.
vii. They must have a high suspicion index so that they do not miss any unusual observation.
Hospitals can be soft targets for terrorist activities such as bomb blasts and security staff must be especially alert to avert such catastrophes.
viii. There should be a documented policy about frisking the staff and visitors (under specified rare situations) at random or when required. The frisking, whenever carried out should be in proper enclosures and staff instructed to meticulously respect the privacy and dignity of people.
ix. There should be a procedure for handling the visitors who are rowdy and creating nuisance in the hospital premises.
x. There should be a system of gate pass to check and control the entry/exit of stores and equipment. The temporary out pass for equipment/stores should have a fixed validity leading to automatic check and enquiry about reasons for non-return of the item.
xi. In case the security staff is from a professional security agency, before joining the duty each and every security staff must be fully familiarized with the hospital floor plans, the entry/exit/escape routes form all the floors and the hospital staff, especially the senior administrative staff.
xii. There should be a rigidly followed system of credentialing and police verification of character and antecedents of every member of the security staff. A new incumbent should be put on duty only after the process of credentialing and police verification is over.
xiii. There should be a supervisor for every one or two floors. The security supervisors on the hospital pay roll must keep a discrete watch over the outsourced security staff.
xiv. The number of entry/exit points should be minimum possible and every entry/exit point should be manned by preferably two guards round the clock. Duties should be scheduled in such a manner that no individual is posted alone at night or at a secluded place.
xv. There should be adequate reserve for relieving for meals and nature’s calls. The guards should not leave their posts without being relieved.
xvi. There should be a system of compulsory periodic rotation of guards in different shifts and at different guard posts.
xvii. A system of surprise night checks by the security officer is a good practice to keep the security staff on alert.
xviii. The security staff must have the telephone numbers of the nearest police station for need in an emergency situation. Good liaison with local police can be of a lot of help.
xix. Training and periodic realistic drills to handle various contingencies such as bomb threats, terrorist attacks, accidental fire. They should have training in fire fighting techniques and handling and containing armed criminals, until the arrival of police.
xx. A documented plan for external and internal traffic routes, an earmarked /adequate parking facility, and well defined entry and exit points to various facilities and a good day/night signage system can help in avoiding the chaotic situations seen in many hospitals.
xxi. Smoking and drinking should be strictly prohibited while on duty in the hospital premises.
xxii. There should be a documented policy, well known to all staff that the security staffs are not allowed to accept any gifts/gratification in cash or kind or any eatables from anyone including staff or patients.
xxiii. Full support of the management to the security staff can be very encouraging to get the best out of them.
Because of the increasing incidence of safety and security violations in the hospitals, the importance of an efficient security service is being increasingly realized. It is being realized that a good security system, like a good lock, is a good investment and not expenditure.
The money spent would always fetch rich dividends in the form of savings by stoppage of thefts, pilferage, accidents/other adverse events.
The system does not require much equipment except a good communication system and appropriately located high resolution in cameras with CC TV system.
The most important component of the system is the workforce which can provide the alert and watchful eyes, listening ears and minds trained to act pro- actively to prevent the adverse events from happening.