Dunedin Hospital to tighten security

Security at Dunedin Hospital is to be tightened because of an increase in the number of patients and visitors carrying weapons.

Southern District Health Board diagnostic and support services manager Sonja Dillon said a proposal would go to staff next month suggesting a range of measures, including reducing the number of entrances to the hospital, increasing the use of staff swipecards, improving closed circuit television coverage and launching a staff education programme.

Ms Dillon said that, so far this year, there had been nine incidents where visitors or patients had been found with knives or other weapons.

Some had been presented to staff, but no-one had been hurt.

There would also be increased controls on visitors, particularly at night.

Staff would be encouraged to enforce visiting hours and question people found outside usual visiting areas.

No changes were planned to security staffing levels.

Staff would be advised they could no longer rely on security staff to "know" them, and would have to use swipecards where appropriate.

At present, there were more than 15 entrances to Dunedin Hospital, some staff-only.

Over the next three years, software changes would be made to update and modernise the swipecard system.

At present, two systems were in use, a physical swipecard, and a card which released doors by proximity.

Closed circuit television coverage would be reviewed, to ensure the cameras were focused on the right places.

Staff would be asked for feedback on the proposal.

Speaking at yesterday's hospital advisory committee meeting in Invercargill, chief operating officer Vivian Blake said it was difficult to know why more weapons were being found, and it could be "just one of those things".

Part of the problem was the "dozens" of entrances to the hospital, and reducing these was key to making the site safer.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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