NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) - For several days after the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team exposed concerns by staff about safety and security at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the I-Team fielded a number of comments from the public and other staff members about the operation of the facility.
The I-Team has continued to push for answers from hospital administrators, including President and CEO Joe Ruffolo, who turned down our original request to speak to the I-Team on camera or over the phone.
I-Team reporter Ed Drantch has called the hospital at least four times since the story was published on wkbw.com on May 22nd, asking to speak with hospital spokesman Pat Bradley. Despite repeated phone messages, the I-Team never made contact with him. This morning, the I-Team returned to the hospital in an attempt to bring our questions to the top leadership in person.
Hospital staff told the I-Team Ruffolo was in the building, but either couldn't or refused to meet with us.
Instead, Bradley met the I-Team crew in the hospital's administration wing, flanked by a security guard. After a brief confrontation, Bradley and the security guard escorted the I-Team out of the facility.
After our Thursday morning meeting, Bradley sent a "guest column submission" to 7 Eyewitness News that reads:
The summer tourist season is upon us along with an expected influx of eight million tourists who will travel here from around the world to see the breathtaking cataracts of Niagara.
The prospect of hosting so many visitors over the next several months can raise some valid community concerns, especially in light of tragic events that have occurred in the United States and elsewhere.
At Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center we are working hard every day to mitigate the risk of an event occurring in our community.
As the result of an ongoing review of safety procedures we are in the process of enacting several improvements, including some that are the direct result of employee recommendations. On our downtown campus these include providing additional outdoor security and security escorts at employee shift change, expanding our internal panic/emergency alert fob system for hospital employees and providing additional staff training in de-escalating and managing crisis situations.
We continue to emphasize aggressive intruder (sometimes called active shooter) response training and will soon be hosting training in non-violent crisis intervention. That training will be conducted by an international training organization that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behavior and will be open to other organizations who wish to train their trainers.
In addition, Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto and several members of his department recently conducted a security survey of our campus and will be recommending ways in which we can further improve campus safety.
Niagara Falls Memorial is active in a broad-based collaborative effort to respond to a range of emergency situations including but not limited to weather emergencies, utility failures, hazardous materials spills, contagious disease epidemics and mass casualty incidents.
Our disaster preparedness efforts have undergone some significant improvement during the past year. We are in the process of establishing a larger, updated hospital incident command center that will feature improved emergency management and communication capabilities. Hand-in-hand with that effort will be the implementation of a cloud-based integrated incident management system that will help us more efficiently coordinate emergency response while continuing to provide high quality patient care.
Emergency preparedness isn’t created in a vacuum. During the past year, in addition to the annual training required for all hospital staff members Memorial employees participated in more than 60 classes, workshops and seminars offered by NYS Homeland Security and Emergency Services, FEMA and the NYS Health Department.
The medical center also participated in training exercises involving the Niagara County Health Department, NYS Health Department, New York Power Authority and other hospitals and long-term care facilities across Western New York and the Southern Tier.
On an ongoing basis we meet with and share best practices and emergency plans with public safety partners including the Niagara Falls Fire Department, Niagara Falls Police Department and Niagara County Emergency Services. We regularly seek training opportunities through the state Office of Health Emergency Preparedness (OHEP) and are active members in the Western New York Health Emergency Preparedness Coalition and the Western New York Healthcare Emergency Planning Council.
While a community can’t prevent what it can’t predict, we believe that by working together with our staff members and community partners we can promote community safety and effectively respond should the unpredictable occur.
Patrick J, Bradley is the director of Communications & Emergency Management at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center
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