Recent horrific mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., have the country discussing and searching its soul once again about what can be done about gun violence. Even more concerning for our hospitals are the attacks at Tulsa’s St. Francis Hospital, where the shooter killed four people and then himself, and the stabbing of a doctor and two nurses at Southern California’s Encino Hospital. These incidents highlighted the vulnerability of our hospitals and health care facilities.
Increased community discord, stressed patients and their families, and employee burnout after two and a half years of the unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency are all factors that may be contributing to a heightened incidence of violence in the workplace. Occasionally it’s gun violence, such as the case last week of a woman strapped to a gurney on her way to a mental health checkup at a Conroe, Texas, hospital who was able to take out a stashed gun and open fire in an emergency room. More frequently, we hear of angry visitors threatening hospital staff — threats that sometimes erupt into physical altercations.
Now, hospital and health system leaders are looking for resources to assist in providing a safer environment for staff, patients, and patients families. Hospitals face unique challenges when it comes to reacting to outbreaks of violence. Some patients have limited mobility, requiring some staff members to stay with them during dangerous situations and making fast evacuations all but impossible.
Last December, CHA hosted a members-only webinar that reviewed Cal/OSHA Workplace Violence Mitigation plan requirements and discussed the American Hospital Association (AHA) Hospitals Against Violence Initiative and its Creating Safer Workplaces guide. Hospital Council and CHA are committed to finding new tools our members can use to de-escalate conflicts when possible, and improving systems to respond to violence when it happens.
This was a major topic of discussion recently at the AHA Regional Policy board meetings and will be a major discussion item at our upcoming Hospital Council board meeting. The safety of all patients and employees of hospitals must be a priority and requires collaborative partnerships, funding, and solutions at the local, state, and federal levels.