By Terry Fallis
No two workdays are the same for Jeff Whyte, regional lead of security, safety and parking, and emergency management coordinator at Horizon Health Network. With 12 hospitals, more than 100 medical facilities, clinics and offices, and over 12,400 employees, security is a concern every moment of every day for the New Brunswick health authority.
“Managing security, safety and parking for a large healthcare network is a massive undertaking,” says Whyte. “We are a support service.”
Support is a consistent theme across the full spectrum of services provided by security within the healthcare industry. This includes (but is not limited to) maintaining public order, site safety and security; providing support and assistance to patients, visitors and staff; responding to emergency codes; and managing parking services.
“Driven by our patient and family-centred care model, the safety and security of patients, their families and our staff is of paramount importance and cannot be overemphasized,”says Whyte. “It’s ingrained in everything we do, day in and day out.”
Horizon employs the use of both a hybrid and contracted security service model, with a total of 26 proprietary staff and more than 120 contracted security personnel.
“Because of the vast size of our organization, we rely on our contracted security service providers, currently the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires,” says Whyte.
At most Horizon sites, the commissionaires provide a full slate of security services, including patient monitoring, and assisting with parking services, traffic control and patrols, as well as incident response, investigation and reporting.
“Ensuring the safety and security of patients and staff across Horizon is complex and diverse, but a very rewarding challenge,” says Pieter Kramers, CEO of Commissionaires, New Brunswick and P.E.I. division. “We share with Horizon a strong commitment to training and that’s an important component of our long-standing partnership.”
Because the healthcare security landscape is ever-evolving, Whyte agrees on-going training is critical to stay on top of security concerns.
“Our contract with the commissionaires stipulates all security staff must receive continuous education and training so they are equipped to respond to the broad range of situations that arise,” he notes.
In February 2016, Horizon introduced a workplace violence prevention program, which includes various levels of training, with an advanced level specifically focused on the effective and appropriate response of code white team members.
Code white is one of the more sensitive and potentially dangerous situations that can arise within a Horizon facility. It activates a response to a situation in which there is an immediate threat of violence, and Horizon’s highly trained teams respond instantly and efficiently.
As part of the workplace violence prevention program rollout, all code white team responders, including both proprietary and contract, are specifically trained to respond to these situations.
Security team members also respond to medical emergency situations under a code blue (unresponsive person not breathing) or stat medical assistance (immediate medical assistance required) alert. The team is trained to provide support and assistance to medical personnel to ensure they can do what they do best — save lives.
“I believe that for our teams to be successful, both training and a proactive approach to security function must go hand-in-hand,” says Whyte. “The training we offer to all staff is through a multitude of mediums, from e-learning modules to advance level in-class training.”
Training is not limited to security personnel; it’s also provided to other staff, both clinical and non-clinical. This helps promote a sense of responsibility for security among all employees and also breaks down any barriers between the security team and the broader employee population. In a patient and family-centred care model, every employee must share in the collective obligation to protect and promote the security of others within Horizon.
The health authority is committed to fostering a culture of safety for its patients, public and staff. An example of this is evident in work recently done by the Women and Children’s Health Program in introducing the infant and child abduction prevention program.
Whyte explains that although infrastructure and security systems can do everything from locking doors to activating audible alarms, systems are only one part of prevention.
“Technology cannot replace the experience, training and sensitivity of our staff. We must continue to educate and inform our patient and public populations,” he says. “When we continue to focus on prevention and response, then and only then will we become successful.”