Health Care Facilities See Rise in Violent Crimes

Joint Commission recommends 13 specific steps to halt this trend
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of violent crimes, including rape, assault and murder, is climbing at health care facilities, according to a Sentinel Event Alert released June 3 by the Joint Commission.

Since 1995, 256 reports of assault, rape and homicide combined have been entered into the Joint Commission's Sentinel Event Database, and these are among the top 10 types of serious events reported. The alert suggests the actual number of events is likely much higher, due to underreporting of violent crimes in health care facilities. The most substantial increases in reports of rape, assault and homicide occurred in the last three years: 36, 41 and 33 incidents were reported in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The causal events most commonly noted in the last five years involved problems in leadership (62 percent of events), human-resources (60 percent), assessment (58 percent), communication (53 percent), physical environment (36 percent), and to a lesser degree, the planning of care, information management, and patient education. The alert suggests 13 actions health care facilities should consider to reduce the risk of violent crimes within their walls, such as assessing the facility's vulnerability to crime, taking extra security measures around emergency departments, and conducting thorough background searches on prospective new hires.

"Health care facilities should be places of healing, not harm. But, unfortunately, health care settings are not immune from the types of violence that are found in the other areas of our lives," Mark R. Chassin, M.D., president of the Joint Commission, said in a statement. "The recommendations in this alert give health care institutions and caregivers specific strategies to take action that will keep everyone safer."

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