Q & A with Jeff Young, Healthcare Security Industry ExpertJeff is a well-known and established professional with over 30+ years in the protection business with 20 years within healthcare. Jeff served in a variety of roles including his early days in law enforcement to senior roles in both the public and private sector. Jeff led an award-winning, and one of the largest scope, healthcare protection programs in North America. He also served as the 2016 President of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) and continues to be actively engaged today as the co-chair of the Data Warehouse Project.

TrackTik: What changes are you seeing from a security perspective in the Healthcare Industry as a result of COVID-19?

Jeff Young: The security industry had staffing challenges prior to COVID-19.  But unlike everywhere else, where most industries have had to reduce their workforces  healthcare security has to increase its workforce which creates challenges in having available trained staff. Some of the solutions we are seeing is that security is creating non-licenced security positions which you can’t technically call security positions, but rather ambassadors, and these ambassadors are not licenced security guards but are working with security companies to pick up some of the more customer-service type duties that might have been done by a licenced security officer a few weeks ago. Hospital campuses have restricted access to everyone except patients and medical personnel right now, even families are not allowed to enter, so someone like an ambassador has to be at those access points to check people coming and going.

TrackTik: Martin Gill recently held a webinar called “What are the most recent crime trends and what are the implications for security?” during COVID-19. Are you concerned about hospital crime, or should we be concerned the longer the pandemic continues? 

Jeff Young: Hospital crime is already occurring, specific to the hospital setting. There have been reports of PPE theft not only by internal staff, but by outsiders that were able to gain access to it before access became restricted. Masks, gloves, gowns are going missing from within the hospital setting, so that’s becoming a challenge. A lot of the hospitals are having to lock down their PPE almost to the point where it is being signed out as inventory so it can be tracked. As for break and enter (B&E) type crimes, we are not hearing anything about those crimes occurring as only essential people should have access to hospitals right now. A challenge for our security staff right now is if they have to intervene to prevent a crime, they are often wearing face masks, googles, or smocks, which can be a challenge they may not be used to. 

TrackTik: Do you think the Healthcare Industry was prepared for the pandemic from a security perspective? 

Jeff Young: Yes, obviously there will be lessons learned coming out of this pandemic, but for the most part the healthcare industry has very robust emergency preparedness and business continuity plans. There is still an element of “learning on the fly,” but generally speaking hospitals are fairly well-prepared. Where we see a weak link here is with the long-term care and extended care facilities that may not have had as robust plans as hospitals. During a pandemic, these facilities are home to our most vulnerable individuals who will be most impacted by a pandemic, and we are sadly seeing that now. 

TrackTik: It seems as if the pandemic is forcing us to rethink our definition of security. Traditionally security has been seen as an external threat. Now it’s being thought of as a threat to health, the environment, the economy, and technology. How do you see this affecting the industry? 

Jeff Young: Those companies that survive will certainly have to endure a financial challenge to their businesses through this, but the companies that survive will be stronger because of it. The pandemic will highlight the need, and hopefully elevate, the perception of private security. Traditionally, security has been perceived very poorly by the public, but I think the public is now seeing the value of security which will only help the security profession moving forward. 

TrackTik: Are we ready to set up Alternate Care Sites (ACS) in Canada? Are they currently being set up? 

Jeff Young: There are unique security challenges with Alternate Care Sites (ACS) that they are setting up if we need to clear hospitals for COVID-19 patients. We are already setting up Alternate Care Sites in Canada. Locally, I know of two sites in the greater Vancouver area. The Vancouver Convention Center has been set up to accommodate 291 beds, and at Fraser Health Authority they have a brand new 80-bed facility that they have delayed moving patients into so they can reallocate patients there if necessary and keep the hospitals for patients with COVID-19.

They are functional now, and are able to be utilized right away, if the numbers start to climb as the projections indicate they will. So the challenges with ACS are unique because you are in a new setting that probably hasn’t been designed for security. The other security challenge to consider is the new drive-thru testing facilities that have been set up by health  organizations, but it all goes back to the security staffing challenges that we are having in keeping up with the demand. 

TrackTik: What does a post-COVID-19 future look like from a healthcare security standpoint? Are there lessons the security industry is going to take away from this? Do you think security companies will be buying PPE for their teams? 

Jeff Young: If they aren’t already, I think security companies should be investing in PPE for their teams. Specifically, in healthcare, private security companies shouldn’t be looking for PPE on the first day of a pandemic. They should really start thinking about that now, to provide PPE for their teams, or work with their healthcare customer to have PPE available for the security teams. I’ve heard of one incident where a hospital refused to provide PPE to contract security guards, so the industry should prepare themselves. 

TrackTik: Will security technology become a bigger factor in the future?

Jeff Young: It will be interesting to see the impact on security systems. A lesson learned here might be the use of biometrics might not be the best solution because during a pandemic staff are wearing masks and gloves which may limit the ability for accurate biometric readings. I think an interesting technology and solution might be to use heat-sensing cameras to monitor people’s temperature as they enter a building. I don’t know if the tech at a point where it is reliable yet, but I think it would be a great use of security technology in healthcare if instead of utilizing a temperature “gun” at everybody as they enter, we would have a camera simply monitoring everyone’s temperature.

TrackTik: Any words of advice to anyone working in the healthcare security industry right now? 

Jeff Young: Be sure to have a work from home contingency plan and the ability to teleconference. Like everyone else, a lot of healthcare leaders are not in the office, so have that in your plan, and pre-plan so that you are able to work remotely and have teleconferencing or Zoom capabilities already set up, and not try to set that up once a pandemic breaks out.

We hope you enjoyed the first in our virtual “Security Q & A in the Time of Pandemic” Series. Our thoughts are with everyone working tirelessly in the hospital industry during this ongoing crisis, especially our frontline workers. Don’t forget to share positive stories of security officers on social media using  #frontlinesecurity to show them you care.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay secure.

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