• Is security at Charlotte-area hospitals adequate?

    By: DaShawn Brown


    CHARLOTTE - To protect her privacy, we've agreed to only call her Paige. She's a former nurse, but happened to be a patient last year at Novant Health in Huntersville when another patient - just doors down from her - started shooting.

    "I hear them, over in over in my head," Paige recalled. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang."

    The rhythm of the gunshots still haunts her.

    "Sometimes I find myself tapping it on my leg, or on my desk," she said.

    Having worked in a hospital, a security alert wasn't a new thing to her.

    "But never active shooter," she said. "That's when it became real."

    Paige hid in the bathroom with a friend. She told us hospital staff hid too, but that no one told her where to go, or what to do. So, to protect themselves, the two of them took her IV cord and wrapped it around the door handle. Meanwhile, in the hallway, Huntersville officers fired shots killing the shooter.

    "It seemed like hours, but it was 32 minutes," said Paige.

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    Security expert Roy Williams III says incidents like the one in Huntersville are extremely rare, but the impact is high. He works with healthcare facilities around the world to come up with guidelines for protecting patients, visitors, and staff. What he sees the most are staff assaults.

    Novant Health and Carolinas Healthcare System - which is now called Atrium Health - both have their own security. They also rely on local police.

    So, we dug through a year's worth of phone calls - every one that went out from four of their hospitals to the largest department in our area: The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

    The reports show employees have been pushed, punched, kicked - some in the stomach, others in the face. In May, someone grabbed a security officer's taser at Atrium health, turned it on, and pointed it at him.

    When we invited them to speak with us on camera, both hospitals declined.

    An anonymous emailer who told us they work for Atrium Health wrote us begging for help. The email referenced multiple assaults on staff. It also described an incident in January with a gunman on the hospital's campus.  In a memo after the incident, hospital leaders told staff police arrested the suspect and security there had it under control.

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    In a statement, Atrium said officers there go through at least 80 hours of training. Some are armed and others are not. Novant said it has a plan for emergencies as well as armed officers on site 24 hours a day.

    A few weeks ago, Chopper 9 captured more chaos at Novant Health in Huntersville just months after the deadly officer-involved shooting. Police said they confronted a man with a gun in the parking lot. They believe he was suicidal.

    RELATED: Suicidal man with gun arrested at Huntersville hospital, police say

    Paige said she's avoided anything that reminds her of the one day she still can't forget, but she agreed to share her story this time if it means protecting someone else

    "I don't know that I'll ever be able to go back to how I was," she said.

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