VCU Health installing weapons detectors at hospital buildings following deadly shooting

VCU Health
Posted at 4:27 PM, Jul 26, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU Health is ramping up security at its hospitals following a deadly shooting on the medical campus in May, according to meeting notes obtained by CBS 6.

The health system is currently in phase one of a three-stage plan to address any potential safety gaps, which came as welcomed news to one woman who visits the hospital frequently.

"I work nearby, and I come over to the hospital at least probably twice a week to grab lunch at the cafeteria. Surprisingly, a hospital has excellent food," said Donna Williams.

Donna Williams
Donna Williams

She added, "I feel safe. Personally, I never really thought too much about safety issues at a hospital until, obviously, a recent shooting."

In the early hours of May 10, police said an employee shot and killed his coworker in the stairwell of VCU's North Hospital in Downtown Richmond. Investigators said the shooting happened after the two workers got into a conflict.

VCU Medical Center shooting 5-10-23.jpg

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While the incident only involved those two men, some VCU staff, who wished to remain anonymous, told CBS 6 they questioned how a gun got inside the building and whether there's adequate security coverage across campus.

“I do think there are opportunities that additional measures could be taken as a response to that to avoid that type of scenario from happening again," Williams said.

VCU Health

And what's what VCU Health is in the process of doing. On June 20, officials held an "all hands on deck" meeting to discuss initiatives to enhance safety.

Documents detailing specifics of the safety measures, provided to CBS 6 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, revealed plans to install weapons detectors at twelve new locations and buildings to include:

  • North Hospital where the shooting took place
  • VCU Medical Center's Gateway building
  • Ambulatory Care Center
  • Critical Care Hospital
  • Adult Outpatient Pavilion
  • Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU
VCU Health

VCU Health purchased the technology in June and plans to install the weapons detectors by August 31. Staffing requirements and policy impacts are still being finalized, and additional screening locations may be included in phase two of the safety plan.

“I think it sounds like a lot for a hospital, but in the same token, I don’t think it will hurt at all," Williams said.

Additionally, the documents showed VCU Health plans to:

  • Limit external access at 92 different access points through door closures/restrictions and badge access
  • Implement unit-level security through controlled entry, review lockdowns of individual floors, identifying technology to assist with lockdowns
  • Replace or upgrade the emergency management notification system
  • Mitigate congestion and traffic
  • Improve employee transport options

CBS 6 asked VCU Health about the estimated costs associated with the changes, and a spokesperson said they do not have any public updates to share at this time but that further details will be released in the coming weeks.
"Things are happening in the most bizarre places these days, and the hospital is not obviously off limits to that," Williams said. "It's sad."

While Williams supported the safety plan, she recognized that physical security measures alone will not be enough to stop violence from happening.

"I think it's the mental health. That's the bigger challenge. That sets the challenge of the guns, all the weapons. I think that makes that part of a bigger issue, because when you get it in the wrong hands, that's the problem," Williams said.

VCU Health System Emergency Management staff are still working on an after-action review and report into the May 10 shooting, which should be completed by the end of the year, according to a FOIA officer.

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