Hospital, Clinic Shootings Put Spotlight on Security

February 19, 2021

The fatal shooting at a medical clinic in Buffalo, Minn., last week is reigniting anxiety about hospital safety in healthcare facilities and raising new concerns about the most effective strategies for dealing with potential violence in the workplace

At Hennepin Healthcare's Whittier Clinic in South Minneapolis, a group of staffers convened the day after the shooting to share their concerns about safety from outside threats, according to Security Info Watch. Authorities allege Gregory Ulrich walked into the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo with a handgun and pipe bombs. In about six minutes, he detonated three explosive devices and shot five people, killing one, a 37-year-old medical assistant.

The incident underscored a grim reality for clinics — that restraining orders work best on people least likely to violate them. Violent gun attacks such as the one last week where a legal restraining order had been obtained against a patient are rare, but healthcare workers face a constant challenge of assessing patients for threats.

In her 14 years as the CEO of NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center in North Minneapolis, Stella Whitney-West recalled only one restraining order obtained by an employee who heard from police that a person had made threats against her in a session with a therapist elsewhere. Whitney-West, however, said violence is always a wake-up call. What is also happening at NorthPoint and elsewhere is risk and threat assessment, both with formal questionnaires and discussions with patients. They also have duress buttons they can push to call internal security.

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