Hospital Lockdowns Can Leave Patients' Loved Ones Locked Out Hospitals are preparing for how to handle mass shootings in case the next one is in their backyard. One difficult call is whether to lockdown the facility, which can have emotional consequences.
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Hospital Lockdowns Can Leave Patients' Loved Ones Locked Out

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Hospital Lockdowns Can Leave Patients' Loved Ones Locked Out

Hospital Lockdowns Can Leave Patients' Loved Ones Locked Out

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Schools around the country are thinking hard about security after recent deadly school shootings in Florida and Texas. They're trying to strike a balance; keep their students safe without creating too much stress or disruption or making schools feel like prisons. But it's not just schools. Hospitals are actually looking at the same thing. Jessica Bakeman from member station WLRN has the story.

JESSICA BAKEMAN, BYLINE: On the afternoon of February 14, Fawn Patterson got a call from her daughter telling her to come to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ma'am, we're on lockdown, so nobody comes in.

BAKEMAN: When Patterson got to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, a security guard was blocking the door.

FAWN PATTERSON: I have a daughter up there that's seven months pregnant, bleeding, and I can't get in to see her.

BAKEMAN: Doctors there were treating seven people who'd been shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and the hospital was on lockdown. Only staff, people with medical emergencies and family members of the shooting victims were allowed in. Patterson was one of dozens of people who waited five hours on the sidewalk outside the emergency room.

PATTERSON: Very frustrated, very angry and very upset.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOUIS YOGEL: A lockdown is simply a security measure for the protection of the victims, their family, as well as the physicians and staff.

BAKEMAN: Dr. Louis Yogel, chief of medical staff, addressed the media outside the hospital that night. The people in charge of hospital security here and around the country say a lockdown is standard and necessary to keep all patients safe when treating victims of a violent incident.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YOGEL: In a time of crisis like this, it's better to have control.

BAKEMAN: But hospital administrators recognize the indirect consequences of mass shootings, like the distress people experience when they're separated from sick loved ones during a lockdown. They're trying to fix it.

ALAN BUTLER: When you shut down access to a hospital, the people that you're keeping out are in this heightened emotional state. It's a real problem.

BAKEMAN: Alan Butler is president-elect of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, and he's been in the hospital security business for two decades. He says hospitals around the country compare notes, reassessing their disaster response plans after every mass shooting. One thing they're considering is whether they're too aggressive about lockdowns.

BUTLER: Sometimes we stay in these elevated lockdown stages longer than we need to.

BAKEMAN: They're also lining up extra staff who they can call in specifically to deal with crowds - the people who are there because of a shooting and the visitors who would've been there anyway.

BUTLER: The bar around safety has been raised, and the concerns are higher than they've ever been.

BAKEMAN: When a mass casualty incident is the result of violence, hospital administrators consider worst-case scenarios, like a shooting suspect coming to the hospital to further harm the victims, someone trying to retaliate against the perpetrator, or dozens of people rushing the hospital in a panic.

BRYAN MARGESON: Being in a posture of prevention is just the best way to do business.

BAKEMAN: Bryan Margeson is corporate security manager for Orlando Health, a private hospital chain that treated victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting two years ago. He says, as painful as lockdowns are for family members...

MARGESON: Our first and foremost responsibility is treating the patients, and that overrides everything.

BAKEMAN: The night of the Parkland shooting, Fawn Patterson ended up going home without getting to see her pregnant daughter, but everything turned out OK for her family. Amanda Ray Carrillo was treated for the bleeding and released from the hospital the next day. And on April 16...

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

BAKEMAN: ...She welcomed her fifth child, Amaya Gonzalez.

AMANDA RAY CARRILLO: She's beautiful. She's a perfect little girl.

BAKEMAN: When Carrillo was back in that same hospital two months after the shooting for her daughter's birth, her mom was by her bedside.

PATTERSON: Wow. She's got some fingernails.

CARRILLO: Hey, baby.

BAKEMAN: For NPR News, I'm Jessica Bakeman in Fort Lauderdale.

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