Local hospitals look to provide more security amid rise in violence

Recent events at locals hospitals highlight the dangers medical staff experience on the job.
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 11:40 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The man accused of firing shots inside Saint Thomas hospital is due in court this week as we learn his alleged actions, unfortunately, are not unique.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said violence against healthcare workers is at an all-time high.

Last week, hospital staff and visitors at Methodist Dallas Medical Center hid as police closed in on the shooter.

“It all kind of hit us that like, ‘oh this is serious, like this is actually happening right now,’” recounted Amanda Birdwell, who was visiting the Dallas area hospital that day. “So, we all went back there, everyone was crying.”

That violent situation is not unique to Dallas.

Last year, five Saint Thomas Midtown employees were assaulted in the parking garage and, just this week, shots were fired in the hospital’s stairwell.

Over at Tristar Centennial, an officer reported a patient with a bag full of drugs and several guns. An open records request reveals Metro Nashville Police received 18 calls regarding fights, assaults, or weapons at Saint Thomas West, 88 calls from Saint Thomas Midtown, 58 from Tristar Centennial, and 108 at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

“It makes my heart sink that this is happening on such a high frequency such a regularity,” said Chad Fitzgerald, who oversees Vanderbilt’s Emergency Response Team.

Fitzgerald said hospital access points have been limited since COVID-19 protocols were implanted in 2020. Access monitors can check staff for badges and provide stickers to visitors at Vanderbilt.

There are also police officers doing patrols.

“In our emergency departments, we do utilize metal detectors and we do searches prior to anyone entering our emergency rooms,” Fitzgerald added.

The rest of the Vanderbilt facility does not have these checkpoints, however, but in light of the increase in violence, they are forced to consider adding them.

“We are definitely looking at all options,” Fitzgerald said.

The challenge is finding a balance between making people feel comfortable and, at a time of unprecedented violence, keeping them safe.

“Individuals are coming to this environment scared, concerned either for themselves or their loved ones,” Fitzgerald explained. “…we don’t want to exacerbate that. We also want to make sure we’re creating a very safe environment for that therapy and that healing to occur.”