Parrish Medical considers security upgrades; Health First arms officers

2 women shot dead inside Titusville hospital

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Parrish Medical Center is considering a series of "security enhancements," including metal detectors, at its Titusville hospital after two people were fatally shot in a third-floor hospital room on Sunday.

Separately, Health First, which operates four hospitals in Brevard County, began arming some of its security officers on Thursday.

The potential security upgrades at Parrish were detailed in a "security reminders" memo Parrish officials distributed to their staff.

Among other potential "security enhancements under consideration and review" are:

• "Enhanced protective equipment" for Parrish's security officers, who currently are unarmed.
• Additional restricted entry points.
• Random bag checks.
• "Enhanced security resources" at all Parrish health care sites.
• Other "enhanced detection devices … to identify prohibited items"

The memo, dated Wednesday, came from Parrish President and Chief Executive Officer George Mikitarian, Vice President of Operations Jeremy Bradford and Manager of Security Deena Ellis, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, 88-year-old Parrish patient Cynthia Zingsheim and 36-year-old Parrish employee, Carrie Rouzer, a "patient sitter," were shot in Zingsheim's room.

Parrish Medical Center security officers Matthew Dolin and Jason Rowley responded to the scene, where they tackled and restrained shooting suspect David Owens, 29, of Titusville, until police arrived.

In a statement to Florida Today, Parrish said, "We are conducting a complete review of the tragedy and all aspects of the incident will be reviewed, analyzed, and whatever changes, if any, are needed will be made."
Health First already has started implementing changes in its security procedures.

Beginning Thursday, some security guards began carrying guns.

"In addition to a firearm, they'll also have a Taser and a baton," Matthew Gerrell with Health First told News 6.
Health First says the officers who carry firearms will be ones who completed all Florida Department of Licensing firearms training required for armed private security officers.

"This annual certification will also authorize the selected officers to carry Tasers," said Stuart Mitchell, the hospital company's executive vice president and chief operations officer.

Health First, which has hospitals in Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Palm Bay and Viera, employs an outside security company, G4S.

Mitchell said other security enhancements planned at Health First over the coming weeks include:

• Restricting access points and the badging process "with enhanced detection devices that may include walk-through metal detector, or handheld wand device and other equipment, to identify prohibited items. Enhanced detection devices will be placed in identified high-volume facility entrances that demonstrate the greatest risk."
• Random bag and backpack checks.
• Expanded security personnel throughout the system.

"It is unfortunate that hospitals must take these actions, but through a careful and thorough review and implementation, these steps will provide us a greater opportunity to avoid a tragic event," Mitchell said.

"It is an unfortunate sign of our times that we have to do these things," Gerrell added. 

"Those who dedicate their lives to healthcare are dedicating their lives to serving others. So it's our job to make sure that they are protected so that they can do what they do best which is help people heal."

Wuesthoff Health System, which has hospitals in Melbourne and Rockledge, is "constantly evaluating our security protocol and processes," said Andy Romine, chief operating officer of Wuesthoff's Rockledge hospital.

Romine said how its security officers are equipped, as well as the use of metal detectors, are among the things being studied.

Wuesthoff uses a private security company called DSI.

About the Author: