The largest hospital system in New York is in the process of launching a program to place qualified armed security officers in all of its hospitals.
Northwell Health, headquartered in Great Neck, N.Y., has rolled out the pilot program at two of its 23 facilities, including North Shore University’s campus in Manhasset and Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, reports ABC 7. Both hospitals are the largest within the system.
“I felt we were at a disadvantage and that it was only a matter of time before we would be armed,” said Vincent Valenti, a retired NYPD officer from the Bronx who is one of the newly-armed guards at North Shore University Hospital, which has had the program in place since March.
The program is the result of demands from employees for increase security following incidents in hospitals both nationwide and locally, according to Healthcare Finance.
Last July, a former doctor at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center who had been forced to resign amid sexual harassment allegations in 2015 shot and killed another doctor and injured six additional staff members.
The doctor was able to hide an AR-15 under his lab coat and walk past security in search of a specific former colleague. When he learned his target wasn’t there that day, he opened fire anyway.
Terry Lynam, senior vice president and chief public relations officer at Northwell Health, said CEO Michael Dowling had previously resisted having armed security officers, wanting to maintain an “open, healing nurturing environment.” However, hospital officials began to feel a responsibility to staff and patients to increase security.
Dowling gave the go-ahead to implement the program just a week before the Bronx-Lebanon shooting.
“Everybody watches the news, and they see what’s going on around the country and in the world,” said Scott Strauss, Northwell’s assistant vice president for security. “And they just want to make sure they’re protected.”
Northwell representatives emphasize that any security officer carrying a gun must be a former law enforcement officer and properly licensed. The officers must also take an eight-hour training course on shooting protocol.
The next facility scheduled to implement the program is Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.
Northwell Health hopes to place armed officers at all of its New York hospitals by the end of the year.
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