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Safety a ‘leading priority’ at NJ hospitals

As the investigation continues into the shooting death of a patient at Kennedy University Hospital in South Jersey – by her own husband – many Garden State residents are wondering about the safety and security of the New Jersey hospitals.

Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford following a shooting
Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford following a shooting (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

“Security and preventing violence and keeping patients and staff safe is a leading priority for hospitals,” said Kerry McKean Kelly, the vice president of Communications for the New Jersey Hospitals Association.

She said this is a major focus for all hospitals.

“It’s something that is part of their everyday planning. They have risk assessments, they have staff training, they have emergency plans in place to address these issues, and through the Hospitals Association we offer ongoing education programs on violence prevention and preventing patients and staff,” she said. “We’ve also brought in consultants on violence prevention.”

McKean Kelly also said there are plans in place in every hospital to handle various situations.

“There is a detailed response plan in every hospital for dealing with all sorts of emergency situations, including an active shooter situation,” she said. “There is a violence prevention committee in place in New Jersey hospitals, there is staff training that takes place on an ongoing basis as well as emergency drills that occur. It’s an active effort, an ongoing effort within hospitals to prevent these types of situations, and unfortunately if one does occur, to then protect patients and staff.”

The challenge, McKean Kelly said, is to balance security while keeping the hospital setting as a welcoming environment where patients, loved ones and visitors feel comfortable.

“Security is paramount, but we also need to have that open access, that’s part of a role of a community hospital,” she said.

So what about tougher security measures?

“There is no consensus on metal detectors in hospitals,” she said. “Some have them and some do not. Every hospital’s needs and their community are different, so the decision on metal detectors is best left in the hands of individual facilities.”

She added extreme violence is rare in hospitals but the bottom line is “hospitals are not immune to violence given their role in the community and events in our society today, so preparation is key.”

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