A security review has a local hospital working to close the door on people who might be looking to cause problems at the facility.
Starting Monday, March 17, Topeka's Stormont-Vail HealthCare will close some entrances early and add extra precautions at others.
Marketing director Nancy Burkhardt says, while there have not been any specific major incidents with unknown individuals gaining access to the facility, an evaluation found a lot of access points that were not necessarily secured. She says that left the door open to not having the best possible grasp about who might be coming and going from the facility. She says the new restrictions will allow Stormont to minimize the number of access points, thereby improving safety for patients, visitors and staff.
Starting Monday, the North Tower main entrance will be the only hospital entry open to the public around the clock. Burkhardt says this entrance was the logical choice for maximum access since it is adjacent to the facility's parking garage at SW 9th and Garfield.
The emergency room entrance will remain open 24/7 for ER patients and visitors, but will not provide an access to other areas of the hospital.
The South Tower and Surgery entrances, which currently are open until 9 p.m., will close at 6 p.m. In addition, the Pozez Education Center doors will become an entrance for staff only. Burkhardt says guests attending events, classes or other gatherings at Pozez are instructed to park in the parking garage anyway, so entering through the North Tower main entrance and following signs to Pozez will add little, if any, walking distance in addition to minimizing the need to walk outdoors in inclement weather.
For added safety, visitors at the main entrance after 9 p.m. will be required to show photo identification.
"We looked at what entrances are closest to the services we offer," Burkhard said. "What makes it most convenient and safest to patients and visitors and staff."
In addition, doors previously unsecured have new, keycard access installed for staff and additional security camera monitoring. Even with those additions, Burkhardt says, staff also will be required to use the main entrance after 9 p.m. because it is considered the safest entry with the best lighting.
In another step, Stormont now has an armed security officer stationed in its emergency department. Burkhardt says that as patient volumes have increased through the facility's Trauma Center, administrators felt it was time to make the shift.
"It can be a high-stress, high-crisis time," Burkhardt said. "It's just important that we make sure everyone is safe."
Stormont is not alone in keeping an eye on security. Topeka's S. Francis Health Center has long had armed security. Like Stormont, spokesperson Ben Bauman says St. Francis also reduces the number of public entryways during nighttime hours. In their case, six of the facility's eight public entrances are closed after 8:30 p.m. That will be further reduced to a single nighttime entrance once work to expand the St. Francis emergency room is complete.
Bauman says the emergency room project has offered other opportunities to improve security. He says the expansion will feature better-controlled access through the ER. Plus, he says the work will increase the number of security cameras from eight to 32. The additional cameras are both inside and outside, with most of them centered around the ER's operations.