Strengthening security at our local hospitals
by Ron Werft
President and CEO
Cottage Health System


Along with providing the highest quality care to members of our communities, all of us at Cottage take very seriously our role in providing a safe environment for patient care.  This requires a diligent focus on the clinical needs of patients as well as assuring that the facilities provide a safe environment for healing to take place.  In recognition of the fact that Santa Barbara is growing and changing, we too must constantly evaluate our own policies and processes.


In this regard, over the past two years, Cottage Health System has increased its security in a number of ways in an effort to provide the safest possible environment for our patients, employees, physicians, and volunteers.  Most of these changes are not visible to the public.  Examples include increased security staff, the installation and monitoring of cameras throughout the facilities, a significant reduction of unlocked entrances during the day, and a reduction to a single secured entrance at night.  Our view is that our responsibility for patient safety begins at the front door.

In the coming weeks, Cottage will be implementing additional security measures, including a patient and visitor identification system.  Our goal is to continue to balance and support the accessibility to programs and services while assuring patients that they are being treated in a safe, secure environment. 

We are not alone among hospitals nationwide in needing to address issues of safety, inappropriate or erratic behavior, even violence. Recent incidents both in and outside of Santa Barbara have heightened our awareness of the fundamental responsibility we have in this regard.  Certainly the abduction of an infant earlier this year, in spite of Cottage’s security systems being among the best available, reinforces the need to be ever vigilant in protecting all patients who entrust us with their care.

Our hospitals must remain comforting and welcoming refuges for the sick and injured, yet there’s a need to balance a welcoming environment with greater control of access to our facilities.  While we would not want to compromise those safety measures by sharing all details, we do want the community to know that access to the hospitals will be monitored more stringently, that there will be fewer entry points to our facilities for members of the public, and that a badge policy is going into place. 

What changes can you expect?  When accessing the hospital, you will be asked at the front desk to identify yourself, and to indicate whether you are visiting a patient or coming for tests or treatment.  You will then be given a badge to wear as you proceed to enter the hospital.  At Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, you may continue to access the hospital through the main entrance at Bath Street, or at the Castillo/Pueblo entrance just across from the Pueblo Parking Structure.  Greeters will be at either entrance to assist you both in obtaining a badge and in providing directions to the appropriate department or patient care unit.  In order for patients and visitors to access the hospital as quickly as possible, we have asked physicians and employees to enter through other secured entrances.  We ask for your assistance by not asking employees to let you in behind them through these secured entrances.  It presents a conflict for them in trying to help you while also assuring that security is not breached. 

These security controls are occurring at each of the Cottage hospitals — in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Santa Ynez Valley.  This is a challenging task.  Currently, over 4,000 individuals enter through the doors of our hospitals on a daily basis.  We believe that these changes are both necessary and important, and we ask for your understanding and support as we implement these security enhancements and ask also that you let us know how we can further improve our service to you.

As we introduce these changes, we recognize that what remains constant is our mission of caring for all who come to us in need, and doing so with excellence, integrity and compassion.

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June 2009