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Violence inside emergency rooms is a problem in Detroit


Photo from Detroit News. Emergency rooms need metal detectors, police, and canines to keep staff safe.

From Detroit News…

Hospitals in Metro Detroit and across the country are beefing up security to protect their workers from emergency room violence.

ER doctors and nurses are pushed, shoved, hit and even bit, according to recent research, including a six-hospital study by the head of emergency medicine for Beaumont Health System and an ongoing national survey by the Emergency Nurses Association.

Experts cite the large number of mentally ill, intoxicated and drug-addicted patients seen in emergency departments. The ER can be a pressure cooker, and the stress is sometimes exacerbated by overcrowding that can lead to frustrating waits for treatment.

“Nobody wants to talk about the number of incidents within their emergency departments, (but) there’s no question it’s a big problem,” said Dr. Terry Kowalenko, health system chair of emergency medicine for Beaumont Health System. “It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Age doesn’t matter, experience doesn’t matter, it just happens.”

The matter has gotten the attention of Michigan lawmakers. The Senate passed a bill in June that would make assaulting an on-duty health worker punishable by the same penalty as assaulting a police officer or a firefighter: up to four years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. At least 26 states have passed similar laws.

“It happens at least once a night that somebody is pushed away or spit at — that’s very common,” said Regina Waller, a registered nurse and night manager at Beaumont in Royal Oak. “Employees have been kicked, grabbed, tackled — you name it, it’s happened.”

Beaumont-Royal Oak, Henry Ford Hospital, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Providence Hospital and the Detroit Medical Center’s Receiving Hospital all have metal detectors that patients and visitors must pass through to enter the emergency department.

Most have additional layers of security. In Royal Oak, for example, Beaumont employees wear personal panic buttons and police make routine sweeps of the emergency department with Starr, a bomb-sniffing German shepherd.

“People have a tendency to calm down when the German shepherd shows up,” said Sgt. Bill Ferreras, a Beaumont security officer.