RISKAlert #850 – Live Python Falls from Hospital Ceiling

RISK Alert Live Python Falls from Tacoma Hospital Ceiling

    AKA: The Case for Screening Patient and Visitor Bags

The staff at Tacoma General Hospital in Washington State had a shock recently when a live white ball python fell from the ceiling in the hospital. The python had been missing inside the hospital for a month, after the owner (a patient) lost track of it.

A visitor had brought the python into the hospital, hidden in a cat carrier full of stuffed toys to visit its owner, who didn’t notice that the python had escaped several days later.

According to Fox Q13 News, the previously missing python was not poisonous and not large enough to kill a human by constriction.

After the owner went home, he notified the hospital that he lost the snake, but wasn’t sure exactly where he had lost it. Another Tacoma, Washington resident commented,

It’s kind of crazy, actually,” said Chris CummingWhitePythons. “The fact is that I’d be kind of awed as to why they’d bring it in … as a pet owner I have a snake of my own, but I wouldn’t bring it to a hospital.”

Using hand-held metal detectors to screen patient bags, and screening of visitor bags is a key control that not only prevents snakes in the hospital, but also uncovers undesirable elements like knives, guns, and drugs which are brought into patient rooms by friends and relatives.

Nurses interviewed for this article said they are aware of family members bringing marijuana, cocaine, meth, and heroin into hospitals for their loved ones. One nurse said, “The patient is certainly a lot happier after the visits”.

Lessons Learned:

1. Snakes don’t belong in hospitals.

2. Screening patient bags not only finds unwanted pets, but also hard drugs,
weapons, forbidden food, and more.

3. Hospitals should be able to identify every person in the hospital at all
times, and simple bag screening is a valuable preventive method to
make a safer hospital environment for staff and patients.

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About Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton

Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton is a leading expert in assessing security risk in both information security and facilities security including security risk assessments, active shooter and security risk assessments for hospitals and healthcare organizations, cybersecurity, nuclear security, and also auditing, analyzing and measuring compliance with all major security standards, like DHS, FEMA 426-428, The Joint Commission, HIPAA Security & Privacy Rules, the HIPAA Omnibus Rule, and OSHA 3148 for Preventing Workplace Violence. And including both C-TPAT and CFATS. She is currently working on a universal set of easy security tools that will make it easy to assess risk in a variety of companies, agencies and business. Her company, Risk & Security LLC, works with more than 500 clients around the world using a program that standardizes site surveys and assessments and makes it easier to compare facilities and measure their level of security. She posts breaking security & risk alerts at www.twitter.com/riskalert. She's also an animal lover and tree hugger, and musician who loves dogs, horses, kitties, house rabbits, parrots, and especially beagles! I support www.brewbeagles.org and other animal rescue organizations and work toward a more peaceful and green world.

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