The Impact of Coronavirus
Hospitals have struggled to meet growing demands placed on healthcare facilities
- By Lisa Terry, CHPA, CPP
- Apr 01, 2021
As coronavirus cases have increased throughout the
nation and across the world, healthcare professionals,
emergency rooms and intensive care units
have all been pushed to the limit in their ability
to properly treat patients with the scarcity of resources
and fear of the unknown. In the course of the pandemic
over the past year, hospitals struggled to meet the new and growing
demands placed on facilities for more and better trained security
IMPROVING SECURITY MEASURES
The pandemic compelled hospitals to increase safety and security
measures. The role of the security professional has been redefined
and prioritized to support more patient care related activities.
New safety and security protocols have been established at hospitals
in order to accurately adhere to CDC guidelines to keep staff
and patients safer.
Patient visitation has been eliminated with few exceptions
throughout the country. Facemasks or shields and other personal
protection equipment (PPE) are required to enter the facility.
Once inside the building, physical distancing of six feet or more
between each person is enforced. Additionally, hospitals have
established screening processes at entry points, which includes
questions regarding symptoms as well as fever detection devices.
The security leader is an important member of the Hospital
Incident Command (HICS) team. Security leaders are often
tasked with the planning of emergency staffing during the development
of an organization’s “All Hazards Emergency Operations
Plan” that meet the scope and scale of security needs amid a disaster.
Security leaders are encouraged to go through industry-speci
fic training, education and self-development. For security leaders
serving as hospital security professionals, this means staying
up-to-date on healthcare security publications, participating as
an active member in the International Association for Healthcare
Security and Safety (IAHSS), ASIS International, attending formal
healthcare security seminars or educational programs, participating
in industry research, and so on.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the IAHSS Guidelines Council
realized that the existing “Communicable Disease Guideline”
was insufficient to meet the needs of the current situation. Thus,
security professional met and worked to edit the guideline immediately.
Within weeks, the updated “Highly Infectious Communicable
Disease Response” document was released by the council to
guide hospitals in developing a response to the global pandemic.
The updated guideline outlines additional, essential security services
with mitigation strategies to address the planned changes
Large hospital systems determined the need to expand the
scope of the security professionals to include increased visitor
and employee screening, PPE, pharmaceutical and medical
equipment storage. These security professionals were expected to
continue to respond quickly, de-escalate aggressive behavior and
maintain a safe environment with COVID-19 positive patients or
patients under investigation.
They also required additional security professionals in new
locations. In order to meet the increased safety protocols as well
as the regulatory requirements, it was imperative that each of the
new security professionals be provided with “Just in Time” training
and PPE for the healthcare environment during this crisis
It is imperative for all healthcare security professionals to understand
and treat these modifications to safety protocols and hospital
operations as long-term changes because these alterations, in
the end, provide safer and more efficient patient care.
PREPARING A PLAN
Hospitals have recently been challenged with the task of preparing
a plan for configuring storage, tracking, securing and administering
the coronavirus vaccine. As coronavirus cases have dramatically
increased in the United States, businesses, companies and organizations
have been forced to address the need for a dependable, effective
plan for continuing operations amidst a pandemic. In order for businesses
to return to normal operations, hospitals need to be prepared
with a clear vaccine distribution plan that can account for possible
risks that would delay vaccination in any stages.
To support the need for transitions to new vaccine procedures
and protocols, a group of approximately 20 security leaders were
led from various hospitals and health systems in the United
States, as well as members of the ASIS International Healthcare
Security Council and Community in developing two documents to assist with the security of vaccine storage and distribution.
A document was created to address considerations in the
securing and distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, “Considerations
in the Securing and Distribution of the Coronavirus
Vaccine.” Hospitals recognize the role they play as the vaccine is
distributed to facilities throughout the country. A storage plan is
provided along with storage requirements specific to the vaccines
currently approved by the FDA as well as a call for hospitals to
update security plans to include steps in keeping the vaccine safe.
As a group, potential risks were taken into account, and considerations
were implemented to think about every step of receiving,
storing, tracking and distributing the vaccine before it even
reaches the facility. Following these guidelines, hospitals will be
better prepared in securing the entire vaccination process.
Security has proven to be more essential than ever in the
healthcare world as the chaotic, uncertain nature of the coronavirus
has created new threats for patients and healthcare workers
within the walls of a hospital.
HEALTHCARE SECURITY LESSONS
The pandemic has taught us several lessons when it comes to
hospital safety and security. For example, it is critical for hospitals
to develop mutual aid relationships, consider contracts for
emergency security staffing during disasters, and establish appropriate/
regulatory “Just-in-Time” training modules for various
Additionally, hospitals should preplan and develop contracts
for PPE and other equipment that security may need during a
disaster. The security leader provides an excellent partner to the
hospital emergency manager in developing a robust “All Hazards
Emergency Operations Plan.” It is also crucial to take care of the
physical and mental health of the team. A strong team creates a
dependable foundation for an environment that is prepared for
the evolving challenges this pandemic continues to create.
At the start of 2021, and round out a year of responding to
the challenges of the coronavirus, security professionals continue
to demonstrate the value of comprehensive security services in
hospitals. Hospital staff recognize that health systems are being
tasked with controlling costs and cutting budgets while maintaining
the highest levels of patient care, safety and privacy.
These facts heighten the awareness of the new role played by
security services in this ever-evolving healthcare
landscape. With proper guidelines, preparation is
necessary for success in the process of distributing
a vaccine across the country while adhering
to the highest level of safety considerations.
This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Security Today.