Hospital safety: Vaughan says saving lives comes first

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Saving lives comes first at Vaughan Regional Medical Center, but so does saving those lives in a safe and secure environment.

A shooting that occurred at a downtown Selma nightspot climaxed outside the VRMC emergency room last month. According to police reports, Prince Walker, 24, of Sardis and Nadeon Rudolph, 31, of Hayneville had been shot with a .25-caliber handgun at Club Destiny. Eyewitnesses – who wished to remain anonymous – say the injured men entered the emergency room shortly before 2 a.m. Dec. 17.

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Minutes later an alleged shooter attempted to enter the hospital to “finish off” the men, according to previous reports.

Eyewitnesses also reported hospital personnel and patients in the ER waiting room sought cover in closets until police arrived. Hospital administrators say their personnel did no such thing.

“There was no one in a closet or under a counter,” said Chief Nursing Officer Cherie Sibley on Tuesday. “(Our nurses) take pride in taking of patients and responding appropriately and would never hideout and not take care of someone.”

“Fortunately for us we had an officer there and we also had a state trooper that was there working a wreck,” added ER Director Dr. Steve Sansom. “We had someone pull up on the ramp and run in to let us know they needed help outside, that someone had been shot. That night I had four nurses that were here and all four of them did respond. The nurses were out there and pulled them out of the mob. A couple of them witnessed the other guy with a gun and witnessed the arrest.”

While Sansom is not 100 percent certain of the night’s details, he says the nurses did manage to get the victims to the ER and stabilize them. One man underwent surgery at Vaughan while the other was airlifted to Baptist Hospital in Montgomery.

“Our staff did respond appropriately and was doing what they’re trained to do and that is to take care of patients,” said Chief Operating Officer Allen Peters. “We did have an armed guard, state trooper and security officer in the area at that time.

“Our staff did a great job and this administration and leadership are proud of the reaction out staff had and that is to go outside not knowing what was out there but knowing someone needed care,” Peters said.

Peters said there are usually two to three police officers at the hospital at all times.

One of those officers is an armed deputy sheriff or trained police officer who is the only person on campus that carries a weapon.

“Our security officers have basic training regarding security mostly in how they identify issues before they become issues and they have access to the city police and county sheriff’s departments who are more than willing to react in a timely manner in any situation we have here at the hospital,” Peters said.

In addition to guards, the hospital features coded keypads on its doors for entrance and exit, Sansom said, citing all the doors within the emergency room require a code.

Hospital safety measures also include a hazardous waste plan and a generic disaster response plan titled Hospital Emergency Incident Command System (HEICS). First implemented by hospitals in Orange County, Calif. and practiced nationwide, HEICS specifically employs a logical management structure, defined responsibilities, clear reporting channels and a common nomenclature to help unify hospitals with other emergency responders.

When executed, HEICS provides a predictable chain of management, prioritized response checklists and cost effective emergency planning within health care organizations.

“The HEICS system allows us to set up the same incident command system that the police or the fire department use, but it’s obviously more geared towards the hospital,” Sansom said. “It’s an elaborate set up and it allows everybody a role and we all know our roles.”