HACKENSACK, N.J. – Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco announced a four-point plan to ensure the safety of patients and staff at the Paramus-based Bergen Regional Medical Center on Wednesday.
The plan trails a report in The Bergen County Record citing almost 300 assaults at the 1,000-bed hospital last year—a 38 percent increase from 2014.
Tops on Tedesco's list is appointing a senior member of his administration to be his direct liaison to the medical center. Whoever holds this position will review hospital operations, procedures, and compliance — particularly with respect to safety.
The medical center provides psychiatric, substance abuse, and long-term care and is owned by the county but operated by Bergen Regional Medical Center LP, a private company.
Under that arrangement, created 18 years ago, the Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA) oversees the facility.
“I have accelerated my timeline and will be placing someone into that role in the next week,” Tedesco said.
There will also be an increase in officer presence on the campus of the medical center, Tedesco said, adding this is a point on which he and Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino agree.
“The objective is to have a greater presence people don’t see but which is there,” he explained.
Tedesco’s plan also involves the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the operating company giving incident reports directly to the BCIA. After a review, the BCIA will forward the reports to relevant authorities, as appropriate.
Lastly, Saudino and Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal are conducting a facilities threat and vulnerability assessment of the 68-acre campus.
At Tedesco’s request, the operating company has agreed to retain an outside consultant to evaluate patient and worker safety.
“When the sheriff, the prosecutor, and the outside consultant complete their assessments,” Tedesco said, “we will determine what additional security measures should be enacted.”
The arrangement between the county and Bergen Regional Medical Center LP is set to expire next March. Tedesco promised the 2017 operating contract would ensure the county’s right to protect the safety of all patients and staff.
He called the medical center, which mainly serves patients on federal and state health programs, “a critical safety net.”
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