Some security improvements have been implemented at the North Dakota State Hospital but more are planned including a review by two consulting agencies, according to Rosalie Etherington, superintendent of the State Hospital.
Etherington told the State Hospital Governing Body Tuesday the facility already increased the visibility of uniformed security staff in the patient care areas, upgraded observation mirrors to eliminate blind spots, improved the grouping of security cameras and improved observation by security staff.
The discussion is occurring as the number of assaults on staff is statistically decreasing, according to the Quality Management report submitted to the Governing Body Tuesday. However, at least one recent incident was particularly violent.
In 2018 there were 89 assaults on staff resulting in 13 injuries. This compares to 111 assaults resulting in 21 injuries in 2017 and 110 assaults resulting in 29 injuries in 2016. The number of assaults on other patients at the State Hospital has remained nearly steady with 65 reported in 2016, 58 in 2017 and 64 in 2018.
The report did not include statistics for 2019. However, in one high-profile assault case, Jason Bradley Benefiel is charged with attempted murder in an April 1 assault on a State Hospital staff member while he was a patient there.
The State Hospital uses a system of codes and alerts so staff can summon help and drills have been held to improve responses to those alerts. Staff members who have been involved in incidents also receive counseling from the staff at the South Central Human Service Center rather than State Hospital staff.
Suggestions from the National Research Institute and the Joint Commission for additional security upgrades or policy changes could come after each agency completes an onsite review in October. The State Hospital Governing Body agreed to postpone its regular September quarterly meeting to after the consultant reports are received in October.
Those consultants will review patient screening and assessment, patient medication regimens, nursing and staff procedures and training. Any changes to promote safety at the State Hospital could be implemented before the end of the year, Etherington said.
"The consultant's work will all be safety related for the staff and other patients," Etherington said.
The Cost for the NRI consultant is estimated at about $25,000. Cost negotiations are continuing with the Joint Commission and the cost could be waived, Etherington said.