Blount Memorial Hospital is taking measures to enhance protection against potential hazards after dark that have nothing to do with medical care.
Not directly anyway.
In an effort to help protect patients, visitors and staff during overnight hours, Blount Memorial Hospital is instituting a new door-closures policy for late night and early morning hours.
Beginning Friday, Aug. 2, all public entrances to the hospital will be locked between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Only the Emergency Department entrance will remain open to the public during these hours.
“This policy is similar to policies many of our peer hospitals and health care facilities in our region have in place already,” Security Department Director Raymond Barnhart said in a statement Monday. “We hope it will help keep everyone who comes to the hospital — whether for work, medical care or to visit a loved one — as safe as possible.”
Guests’ ability to visit or stay with hospitalized patients will not be affected, according to the hospital. Physicians and employees will continue to have access to public entrance doors during overnight hours using their identification badges.
No specific incident or recommendation prompted BMH to make the change, said Jenny Bounds, director of public relations and marketing.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a while,” she said, noting it is standard policy at many hospitals. “My understanding is, from talking with our security personnel, that we are one of the last to implement it in the area.”
The emergency entrance is accessible from the main driveway onto the BMH campus off East Lamar Alexander Parkway. Signs direct traffic in vehicles or on foot to the Emergency Department doors at the front of the hospital. A red-and-white “emergency” sign is on the canopy that extends beyond the entrance.
Bounds expects the impact to be minimal for patients and visitors.
“For the most part, I don’t think it will be a big change,” she said.
For people unfamiliar with the building, the change should be a benefit. With a single public entrance, visitors entering the building at off-peak hours won’t find themselves inside BMH without knowing how to get to their destination. At the Emergency Department there should always be hospital personnel available to help.
“We don’t want people entering the building to be at a place where there is no staff person to direct them,” Bounds said.
The new locked-door policy will not require staffing changes, and will allow the building to remain accessible while increasing the level of safety, according to BMH.
“We’re definitely a community hospital and this does not impact ability to enter the building. We just want to make it a little bit safer,” Bounds said.