Paul Warren Pardus did not have to evade security yesterday when he took a handgun into Johns Hopkins Hospital, later killing himself and his mother and wounding a physician, says the Baltimore Sun. While Hopkins has long focused on safety at its sprawling medical campus in crime-plagued East Baltimore, the hospital does not require patients or visitors to pass through metal detectors, as Americans must do now at airports, courthouses and many federal buildings. With a weekly stream of 80,000 patients and visitors, imposing such security restrictions is “impossible,” Hopkins officials say – and security experts agree. Even as violent incidents appear to be on the upswing at hospitals, they need to remain welcoming places, experts say.
Hopkins does, however, conduct searches and magnetometer “wanding” in “high-risk situations” in the emergency department, where gunshot and stabbing victims are often treated. “We’re not Fort Knox; we have to serve the public,” said Joseph Bellino, president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, a professional organization based in Illinois. This year, there have been only a handful of violent incidents in hospitals nationwide, he said. In March, an 85-year-old heart patient in Connecticut allegedly stashed a revolver in the folds of his hospital gown and shot a nursing supervisor who tried to grab the gun. The 35-year-old nurse was shot three times but survived. Since 2004, there have been “significant increases in reports of assault, rape and homicide,” at health care institutions across the country, according to the Joint Commission, a private accrediting body for hospitals. It reported that the greatest number of reports have been in the past three years, with 36 incidents in 2007, 41 in 2008 and 33 in 2009.