As Assaults Rise, Hospital Buys Staff Panic Buttons

Attacks on health care workers have jumped since COVID hit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2021 6:00 PM CDT
As Assaults Rise, Hospital Buys Staff Panic Buttons
Keith Mathis holds a panic button he helped create as part of CoxHealth's Innovation Accelerators program. Staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on workers tripled after the COVID-19 pandemic began.   (Sara Karnes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

(Newser) – Nurses and hundreds of other staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on workers tripled after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cox Medical Center Branson is using grant money to add buttons to identification badges worn by up to 400 employees who work in the emergency room and inpatient hospital rooms. Pushing the button will immediately alert hospital security, launching a tracking system that will send help to the endangered worker. The hospital hopes to have the system operational by the end of the year, the AP reports.

A similar program was successfully tested last year at CoxHealth's Springfield hospital, spokeswoman Kaitlyn McConnell said Tuesday. Hospital data showed that the number of "security incidents" at the Branson hospital rose from 94 in 2019 to 162 in 2020. Assaults rose from 40 to 123 during that same period, and injuries to health care workers rose from 17 to 78. Data for 2021 was not available. The delta variant of the virus hit hard in southwestern Missouri starting in June, leaving hospitals so full that many patients were sent to facilities hundreds of miles away. The hospital in Branson has been at or near capacity for four months.

"Personal Panic Buttons are one more tool in the battle to keep our staff safe," CoxHealth’s director of safety and security said in a statement. The Missouri hospital isn't alone. The Texas Tribune reported this month about the rising number of assaults at Texas hospitals, incidents that officials believe are fueled by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Worldwide, a report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and sites last year. Researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19.

(Read more hospitals stories.)

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