Assaults more common than shooting in hospitals

In the aftermath of the shooting of a Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor in September by the distraught son of a patient, a pair of Hopkins researchers looked into how common such an event is. They determined that shootings are rare. Other assaults are higher, though.

The rate of assaults on workers in U.S. healthcare settings is four times higher than other workplaces, they found. The rate of assaults in all private-sector workplaces is two per 10,000, compared to eight per 10,000 in healthcare settings, according to Dr. Gabor D. Kelen and Dr. Christina L. Catlett.


They wrote about this in a commentary to be published in the Dec. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

They concluded that hospital shootings get all the media attention, but security experts say there should be more of a focus on preventing the assaults. That's why installing magnetometers and other expensive high-tech devices isn't called for, said Kelen, professor and chair of Hopkins' Department of Emergency Medicine.


That echoes statements made around the shooting by Hopkins security officials, who said that it wasn't practical and wouldn't necessarily improve safety to install gun detection technology at the hospital. At the time, the officials and hospital representatives said it would also not be welcoming for patients and visitors.

"Magnetometers certainly project a protective aura; however they are not a security panacea in most health care settings," said Kelen and Catlett. They may also give a "false sense of security."

The researchers found that most shootings also happen outside of the health facilities.

Hopkins officials may have used this analysis in their response to the Joint Commission, the panel that accredits hospitals. The commission labeled the shooting of Dr. David B. Cohen at Hopkins at "sentinel" event that required a review of procedures. The confidential report was turned in recently.

In general, a commission official has said Hopkins may not need any additional measures.

The commission also reported that there have been 6,923 sentinel events between 1995 and 2008. Maryland has had 146 events. They include wrong-site surgery, suicide, postoperative complications, delays in treatments and medical errors.

Violence is less common. Just under 4 percent were called "assault/rape/homicide." There have been 263 of them from 1995-2008. But they don't say how many of each occured.

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