COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo (KRDO) - Penrose-St. Francis health system staff says they've had to call security several times over the past few months because of irate visitors unhappy with the hospital's visitor screening procedures put in place due to COVID.
Penrose Hospital sees about 2,500 patients and visitors a day, Penrose St. Francis says a couple hundred. Since COVID-19 began, staff says they've been yelled at to the point where security has had to intervene.
When you visit Penrose-St. Francis hospitals these days — whether as a patient, family member or friend — you'll be greeted with signs and arrows pointing you toward the new screening process.
They ask if you've had a fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell within the last 72 hours. Next, your temperature is taken through an infrared camera.
"That actually reads your temperature from far away so it makes it a lot faster, a lot safer process as far as nothing to clean in between visitors and people screening," said Roni Farrenberg, Director of Clinical Services for Nursing.
Although it's a quicker procedure, she says tensions have been high.
"There are times that our line goes out the building, around the corner and onto the sidewalk. It is a fast process, but still frustrating," Farrenberg said.
Since this process was put in place, Dr. Bill Plauth, hospital medical director, says outbursts from visitors have turned violent.
"People do get upset. We've even had people curse at our staff and we just ask people not to. We understand coming to the hospital is a very stressful environment especially when they're concerned about a loved one," he said.
In response, both hospitals has introduced other safety measures.
"We do not tolerate violence towards our associates. Unfortunately, there have been circumstances where security has been involved and we have had to ask some visitors to leave," Farrenberg said.
Turning visitors away is not something the hospital wants to do, but administrators say they won't hesitate to do that if the hospital has to.
While the hospitals don't know how many times security has had to get involved, they say one time is too many.