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York City Police to patrol WellSpan York Hospital amid threats, violence

The hospital says it’s responding to a nationwide rise in violence against health care workers.

  • Brett Sholtis
A York Police vehicle is parked outside the station on Oct. 18, 2019.

 Ian Sterling for WITF

A York Police vehicle is parked outside the station on Oct. 18, 2019.

(York) — Citing threats to staff and an uptick in violence at hospitals around the U.S., WellSpan Health and York City Police have agreed to keep four armed officers on site at its York hospital. 

WellSpan will pay York City Police for a three-year “acute deployment” that will begin in February, said police Commissioner Michael Muldrow. The health system declined to say how much it was paying. The police sergeant and three officers assigned to the job are all experienced members of York City Police, Muldrow said.  

They will work with WellSpan’s security team to improve public safety and plan for emergencies, Muldrow said. Security staff at the 596-bed hospital frequently call in requests for support for a variety of issues. Keeping officers at the hospital would allow them to intervene more quickly. 

There is no urgent threat to the hospital, emphasized WellSpan Health Senior Vice President Victoria Diamond.

“And yet, we do watch what happens across the rest of the country—and as all of us know, we have seen increases in violence in health care settings, for a whole host of reasons,” Diamond said. 

That violence against health care workers has played out in Pennsylvania, according to an October report in the Philadelphia Inquirer

A Kaiser Health News report, also from last October, found that this trend has been on the rise for years. In 2018 health care workers made up 73% of nonfatal workplace injuries, the report notes. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse. Incidents against doctors and nurses ranged from threats and harassment to physical assault — often stemming from frustrations over COVID-19 and public health measures such as mask wearing. 

The bustling hospital in York employs 5,000 people, with about 2,000 on site on a given day, Diamond said. Having four dedicated officers helps to protect staff and patients.  

There have been specific threats against staff, said WellSpan Health spokesman Ryan Coyle. He declined to provide details of those threats but added that the hospital makes “frequent requests for support” from the police department.

The agreement is part of a broader collaboration between WellSpan Health and York City Police to prevent gun violence, Coyle said. Other efforts include its Credible Messenger Program, which connects gunshot wound victims to people who may be able to help them after they leave the hospital. WellSpan has treated 245 gunshot wounds since 2018, the health system noted. 

“We mentioned that this effort is a proactive measure, rather than a reactive one,” Coyle said. “While there have been no shootings on site at the hospital in the past five years, we have seen an increase in violence at healthcare facilities nationwide and this is a proactive measure to preemptively address that.”

As a note of disclosure, Transforming Health receives financial support from WellSpan Health. 

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