Hospitals' Merger Spurs Advances in Security Technology
Hospitals' Merger Spurs Advances in Security Technology

Aug 1, 2003 12:00 PM

When Robert Russell became manager of security services for Horton Medical Center, Middletown, N.Y., in January 2000, he confronted an increasingly common challenge in the healthcare industry: how to implement improvements in an ever-changing business environment. In this case, the changes involved a merger with nearby Arden Hill Hospital, Goshen, N.Y., which was completed within two-and-a-half years of his arrival, in July 2002. The merged facility is called Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC). Looking ahead, the two facilities could be consolidated to an expanded campus within the next five years.

Rather than view these changes as obstacles to security management, Russell has taken advantage of the opportunities they presented, making sure the security department is represented when renovations were being planned. "I became a member of the Project Planning Committee, which meets monthly to evaluate projects and their ramifications," he says. "This allows work that may affect several departments to be done collectively according to a plan, rather than haphazardly."

The committee consists of managers of major hospital departments such as facilities, materials management, information technology, security, finance and biomedical engineering. In addition to the regular members, department heads who are proposing or who may be affected by proposed changes also attend meetings.

The medical center serves a diverse and growing population that includes dairy and produce farms, small towns and cities. The service area includes Orange County as well as portions of Sullivan and Ulster counties, eastern Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey.

"We serve both an inner city and a rural population, and we are located in Orange County, which is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of New York," Russell says. "The emergency rooms of both facilities are busy. You have everything from gang violence to a farmer who gets gored by a bull. Moreover, we see a lot of highway trauma. The Goshen facility is just off State Highway 17, which stretches for several hundred miles, and in Middletown we're at the juncture of 17 and Interstate 84, which goes from Scranton, Pa., to Hartford, Conn., and is a major commercial route."

When he was hired, Russell, who had been security director for Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y., for the previous nine years, felt the existing security structure at Horton could be improved through greater consolidation of management and systems.

"Previously, the hospital had contracted with an outside agency for security officers. The security manager's position had been a part-time one," Russell recalls. With the approval of upper management, he began studying the feasibility of bringing the security staff in-house.

"I felt this would be desirable," he says. "While the hospital did have a core of steady security officers employed by the contract agency, there was still more turnover than I would have liked. In addition, I felt both morale and performance would be maximized if security employees felt they were truly a part of the hospital. Contract employees do not always get the same benefits as staff members."

Russell's proposal for bringing security in-house turned out to be more cost-efficient than the previous arrangement, and was accepted. He now manages an in-house staff of 24 full-time security employees, along with several part-time and per-diem staff members at both the Middletown and Goshen campuses.

"The staff feels they're a valued part of the hospital. We did hire some of the contract employees, as well," Russell says. Among these is Russell's second-in-command, supervisor Ralph Hessberger. Working under Hessberger are "charge officers" who lead each shift. The security department is staffed 24-hours per day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

One of the first improvements in technological systems was to consolidate the access control function at Horton by installing an expanded system. "Previously, we were using two systems with two different cards, each with a 500-user capacity. We replaced this with a system by IDenticard Systems Inc., Lancaster, Pa., and, over several years have substantially expanded access points to approximately 60 internal and external doors today," Russell says.

The Goshen campus uses Keri Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., for access control, and the Horton Medical Pavilion at Crystal Run, an outpatient facility, uses an access control system by Notifier Systems, Northford, Conn.

All employee entrances in Middletown are now covered by IDenticard. Access control has also been placed at the emergency room entrances so that only authorized staff can gain admittance. Otherwise, doors are locked and security officers must issue passes for the public to access them.

Following an incident of unauthorized entry, surveillance at public entrances at both the Middletown and Goshen campuses became a top priority. In addition to the safeguards provided by access control systems, cameras have been placed at all public entrances at both locations. In addition, cameras have been installed at strategic locations in the Emergency Departments at both medical facilities.

In addition to controlling access, the IDenticard system allows Russell to program specific levels of access for different employees, managing the times and the areas for which they are permitted entry.

The IDenticard system is installed in a file server in the Information Technology (IT) department and connected to four workstations, one of which is at Arden Hill. While that campus uses the Keri system for access control, it does share the IDentiPASS ID card system with Horton. A small box in the Security Command Center at Horton holds the RS-232/RS-485 converter which connects the server to seven IDenticard Series 9000 controller panels. Each panel controls up to eight readers connected by copper wire.

Expansion cards contain extra relays for alarms or other functions. For the inaudible alarm function of the software, the alarm will appear on the screen to alert the security officer when an access point is breached. Locking devices on most doors are magnetic contact locks by Securitron Magnalock Corp., Sparks, Nev. The locks, which were installed by Reliable Communications, Jackson, N.J., are included as part of the IDenticard System.

The distributed processing feature of the system enables data to be stored on the individual controllers, giving the hospital added security should the main file server temporarily lose touch with them. "In such a situation, the only thing I can't do is make changes to the system. But, I can still access data," Russell says.

Horton produces its own cards with an Ivis Plus 2000 ID card system by IDenticard that is integrated with the IDenticard access control system. A Fargo HDP820 printer prints the cards, and an Olympus Camedia C-4000 zoom camera is used to photograph employees. "We're in the process of reissuing cards to all employees at both campuses, which will have the Orange Regional Medical Center name on them," Russell says. There are more than 2,500 employees at both facilities. In addition, the pavilion has 200 employees. There are also additional, smaller outpatient facilities.

Along with improvements in access control, Russell has expanded and improved upon the existing CCTV coverage, installing from five to 14 indoor and from two to six outdoor cameras at Horton. He also upgraded the cameras from black-and-white to color, installing Pelco Spectralite II integrated camera/housing units. The system allows control signals to be transmitted from the cameras to the Pelco multiplexer through a coaxial cable. Outside cameras at the Middletown campus cover the perimeter of the 378,000-square-foot facility which is situated on 18 acres. A camera covering a remote parking lot a half a block away is connected by a microwave link from Trango Systems, San Diego, Calif.

All of the camera activity at Horton is recorded by a Dedicated Micros DVR system. Cameras have also been placed in the PC storage area to discourage theft, inside and outside the loading dock, and in lobbies at Horton and Arden Hill facilities.

A 16-camera expansion is planned for the pavilion, which will double its size in approximately 18 months. "The renovations will allow us an opportunity to update the camera systems, switching from black-and-white to color, and from video to digital recording systems," Russell says. Once the Arden Hill CCTV system's renovation is in place, he will be able to access the facility remotely through a 10-12-mile fiber-optic loop already in place between Horton and Arden Hill. Eventually, he hopes to have the entire Goshen facility served by a DVR system.

In Horton's Security Command Center, two Dedicated Micros recorders sit atop one another, all of the fixed cameras connected to one; the pan/tilt/zoom and a few other fixed cameras connected to the other. Each has a 16-camera capacity. The Pelco cameras are connected to a Pelco CM6700-MXB matrix switcher in the command center through a coaxial cable. Horton uses Sony and RCA cameras as well.

Also in the command center, the CCTV system is viewed through Ikegami and Sony 19-inch monitors and a Samsung flat-screen monitor. A Dell PC workstation which is used for the IDenticard access control system displays activity on a flat-screen 17-inch monitor. Other useful software which Russell can access either from the command center or his office includes Incident Report Index, Dispatcher's Daily Log, and Traffic Parking Violations Vehicle Log, all from Thomas Tyler Software of Lake Forest, Calif. Russell says the dispatch log enables him to keep track of all the calls which come in and requests for security's services. He also uses it to help with staff scheduling, such as shift changes and meal breaks. Additionally, a 9-inch Panasonic monitor is used in conjunction with an intercom system from Aiphone Corp., Bellevue, Wash. This allows the security officer to manually open a door for someone who may arrive without their card.

Security has also been improved by greater control of traffic flow from the lobby into the hospital at Horton. Previously, visitors could more easily gain direct access to the patient areas and to the coffee and gift shops. Now they are routed by a series of physical barriers to the information desk, where a security officer is stationed.

"We erected a wall by the coffee shop and another set of barriers around the information desk so that everyone has to funnel through one smaller slot where an officer is always positioned," Russell says.

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