A Missouri medical center is giving its staff members panic buttons due to a troubling increase in attacks by patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assaults on staff by patients have tripled in the past year at Cox Medical Center in Branson, Missouri, according to a release from the hospital earlier this month. More than 120 assaults on staff members occurred last year.
“The biggest part of being in health care now is not only being able to give excellent care to your patient you’ve been assigned and to make them feel safe, but to also feel safe yourself as their primary caregiver,” the hospital’s patient safety facilitator, Angie Smith, said in a statement on Facebook.
Smith said she wants workers to know that dealing with violence isn’t and shouldn’t just be considered “part of the job.”
The problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic, according to the medical center. COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket and fill up hospitals in many communities, reducing health care resources and increasing wait times for other coronavirus patients and those with medical issues.
In an effort to reduce the violence and protect workers, the Branson hospital plans to provide up to 400 staff members working in emergency rooms and inpatient hospital rooms with personal panic buttons.
The panic buttons will be attached to employees’ ID badges, which already include tracer chips. Pushing the panic button will alert the hospital’s security team as well as other employees about a danger in a specific location.
It also activates a “personal tracing system,” the hospital’s release said. “Security is immediately notified and a pop-up alert on hospital computers shows the employee’s exact location. If an employee moves after pushing the button, the alert will update their new location.”
The system was successfully tested at a neighboring facility last year.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.