Missouri hospital to supply panic buttons in response to increased violence against employees

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Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, will begin issuing “personal panic buttons” to health care workers to help combat the steep increase in violence against staff members over the past year.

Keith Mathis holds a panic button he helped create as part of CoxHealth’s Innovation Accelerators program. Nurses and hundreds of other staff members will soon begin wearing panic buttons at a Missouri hospital where assaults on workers tripled after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
(Sara Karnes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

The number of incidents for which security was called to intervene rose at the Missouri hospital from 94 in 2019 to 162 in 2020. During the same period, assaults within the hospital rose from 40 to 123, while injuries to health care workers rose from 17 to 78.

Cox Medical Center plans to use $132,000 in grant money from Branson’s Skaggs Foundation to include the button on ID badges for up to 400 staff members. The nonprofit helps to support the health and wellness of the medical community in Missouri. It merged with CoxHealth in 2013. 

Many Missouri hospitals went overcapacity as new COVID-19 cases rose due to the delta variant, including the Branson hospital, which has reached capacity or beyond the past four months. 

Due to a strict hospital policy, families often cannot visit sick patients, leading to increased stress levels. 

CoxHealth’s director of safety and security, Alan Butler, told the AP the panic button can only help in “maintaining a safe work and care environment.”

Jackie Gatz, vice president of safety and preparedness for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the panic buttons are just one step hospitals have taken to protect employees. Other measures to ensure employee safety include adding security cameras, equipping employees with body cameras and even adding security dogs to a Springfield, Missouri, hospital. Training on how to deescalate upset patients is also provided by the Missouri Hospital Association. 

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

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