Investigator Exclusive: Metal detectors not answer to hospital shootings

10:53 AM, Jul 17, 2010   |    comments
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The first shooting occurred July 2 in the emergency room at South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights, where police say a man announced he wanted to kill himself.

Security officers attempted to talk to the man, but he pulled a gun from his waistband and pulled the trigger, shooting himself in the chest, officials said.

A week later, a 77-year-old man fatally shot his wife before turning the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights.

The third shooting happened Tuesday when an 82-year-old Chagrin Falls man shot himself in the abdomen and wrist in the ambulance drop-off area at Hillcrest.

Despite the rapid succession of shootings, officials say such violence at hospitals is rare. In fact, the last such shooting occurred nine years ago at St. Vincent Charity Hospital when a patient was attacked inside his room with a knife and suffered a 12-inch cut.

Hospital officials say they want to create as warm and friendly an atmosphere as they can while still trying to ensure patient safety.

That's why it was easy for our undercover producer to walk the hallways of several local hospitals, visiting patient care areas, no questions asked.

Both South Pointe and Hillcrest hospitals are owned by the Cleveland Clinic, which insures every hospital in its system has access to hand-held metal detectors.

"If we have reason to believe or causes to think someone is introducing a threatening object into the hospital, those wands are immediately available to use," says Randy Stephen, chief of protective services for the Cleveland Clinic Health System.

At University Hospitals, security measures include guards, cameras, and identification badges for both employees and visitors -- although our undercover producer was never given one while walking down several hallways where patients resided.

Still, Joe Bellino, a security expert for the Houston-based International Association of Hospital Safety and Security, said installing metal detectors wouldn't deter shootings in medical facilities.

"If I am bent on shooting someone or killing myself," he said, "a metal detector won't stop me."


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