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Contracting for Adaptable Healthcare Support

Although they are only a 15-minute drive apart, Capital Health’s two New Jersey acute care hospitals—Regional Medical Center in Trenton and Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell—are embedded in communities which greatly differ.

According to Nat Bosk, vice president of supply chain management and facility services for the organization, Regional Medical operates in the urban environment of the city of Trenton, and it includes a state-designated level II trauma center—one of only 10 trauma centers in the state. The Hopewell facility, on the other hand, is nestled in a suburb outside of the city.

While this difference in settings may not seem grand, it can mean everything when building an effective security platform.

Altogether, Capital Health’s facilities boast a combined staff of approximately 4,000 employees, with the acute care facilities’ emergency departments handling roughly 120,000 emergency room visits per year and a satellite emergency room in Brownsville, New Jersey, averaging another 25,000 visits per year. The facilities’ specialty services also attract patients from afar, such as Regional Medical’s behavioral health center, which offers crisis intervention and operates as a screening center for Mercer County.

“When you add all the practices, when you look at all the outpatient services at those hospitals, you are talking about hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of visits a year,” Bosk says of the regional hospital system. The variety of care services means that the security necessary to support doctors, nurses, and all other healthcare employees also needs to be varied and at times extreme.

Until 2019, Capital Health had relied on in-house security for decades, but according to Bosk this approach had gaps, such as a lack of an armed officer at Regional Medical. “As an inner city facility, we had a number of issues outside of the [Regional Medical] campus, close to the campus, and inside the campus,” Bosk says. “Security—as a healthcare facility—was not a core competency for us.” Hospital employees were noticing the security gap, too, and they were expressing concern and anxiety.

Bosk and others on Capital Health’s management team realized that while their organization focused on saving lives through medicine, the team had limits to its knowledge. When the decision was made to introduce armed officers on campuses and in emergency rooms as an added protective measure, managers knew they would need something other than their previous in-house system.

After a competitive bidding and interview process, Capital Health decided to partner with Allied Universal, which initially supported the facilities with roughly 70 officers, including Paul Allena, now director of safety and security for Capital Health. According to Allena, each officer for the hospital facilities meets New Jersey State Police’s licensing requirements for private security officers. Also, each private officer must complete the Security Officer Registration Act (SORA) training program, and Allied Universal provides additional training sessions so that officers are familiar with healthcare-related issues, including HIPAA, Handle with Care, and more. Since the initial rollout, the program has grown to include almost 90 full-time security officers.

Hospital administrators understood that additional security personnel, whether armed or unarmed, would present a different environment for staff who had worked there for years. To familiarize hospital employees with the new faces, internal newsletters and regular meetings explained the new direction and the rationale behind the decision.

These new security officers were soon everywhere, supporting the healthcare facilities with a kind of concierge security platform, which included armed and unarmed guards, internal and cross-facility courier services, and an employee shuttle service that provides staff with transportation between campuses.

Relying on a centralized system, Allena directs and oversees the program and its various demands. With the two separate campuses, Allena and Bosk note that proactively maintaining relationships with both local authorities and hospital leaders significantly helps in appropriately maintaining, developing, and evolving the security program.

Since the partnership began, Bosk says that the hospital has continually used Allied Universal’s resources and awareness of nationwide security trends, while allowing Capital Health to keep up with best practices. “There has been a lot of work in terms of workplace violence and what healthcare employees are confronted with today in our environment,” he notes. “There’s a very active workplace violence committee that [Allena] chairs with good representation from our behavior health component, as well as our acute care services and emergency department.”

Part of the program’s efficiency stems from its adaptability to the different settings and needs of the facilities, whether there is a trauma alert at Regional Medical, assisting with a transfer, providing visitor control, or even adjusting to a pandemic.

In April, when Security Management spoke with Bosk and Allena, New Jersey was one of the many regions around the world dealing with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Both Capital Health and its security program adopted new practices, such as restricting all visitors across all locations, in an attempt to minimize the spread of the disease. Security officers manned staff and patient admittances. Although officers were not administering temperature screenings, they remained on hand to assist with any necessary controls and provide courier services that would deliver personal protective equipment—including masks, gloves, and other protective gear—across Capital Health’s facilities.

Bosk credits the proactive and open approach with addressing prior security issues. He notes that within Capital Health’s first year of using the Allied Universal platform, the facilities have already expanded its use, opting to dedicate additional security staff to the behavioral health and crisis intervention units.

“Since this contractual relationship and new service has been in place, we have enhanced and embellished coverage in a number of areas,” Bosk says, adding that additional security expansion is likely. “We are going through a tremendous amount of growth in our operations, and with that growth will come the necessity for additional services, both in terms of growth of services and expansion to other sites.”