Petition to KEEP Sheriff Deputies at San Francisco General Hospital

Petition to KEEP Sheriff Deputies at San Francisco General Hospital

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To Grant Colfax, Susan Ehrlich, Basil Price, Tosan Boyo, Anna Robert, Hali Hammer, Roland Pickens, Jeff Critchfield and all stake holders at San Francisco General Hospital:

In recent news of the petition by Asmara Gebre, and the calls made to the Police Commission meeting July 15, 2020 to remove our San Francisco Sheriff Deputies from San Francisco General Hospital, many of our staff are outraged. 

        Many of us that have been working in the Emergency Department, hospital or clinics for years, we cannot stress enough how heavily rely on our Sheriff Deputies. Like most county hospital and trauma centers, we work in a very violent environment due to our patient populations. Whether it is from patients suffering from a psychiatric crisis, acting out due to a drugs or alcohol, or suffering from a traumatic brain injury, staff constantly have to restrain and sedate at-risk patients who do not respond to verbal de-escalation and other methods (for the safety of the patient and the staff).

          In an ideal word, we would not need the Sheriffs Department in the hospital, but we do not live an ideal world. We live in a world where healthcare workers are getting assaulted and abused consistently. As you know, violence against healthcare workers is already occurring at an alarming rate and will increase greatly without our Sheriffs Deputies. The presence of the SFSD on campus and patrolling around the hospital helps to reduce the amount of patients and visitors from escalating against staff. 

           The San Francisco Sheriffs Department provides multiple services here on campus. They provide escorts through the tunnels to and from Psychiatric Emergency Services and the Emergency Department, they patrol around campus decreasing the amount of car break-ins and vandalizing, escort staff to their vehicles or BART, are able to immediately evaluate a patient who may be at-risk and put them on a 5150, if needed (we would otherwise have to wait for psych to come over to do that because our physicians are not permitted to). They respond to the drive up gunshot and stabbing victims to secure the scene so ER staff can safely pull them out of the car, assist in money counts per policy, staff the ER and ambulance entrance where they have intercepted multiple knives and handguns, handle domestic violence and violent visitor issues, handle filling out police reports in-house and the list goes on. 

           Having our Sheriffs Department screen patients has protected staff throughout the hospital from weapons being used to harm others.  There have been thousands of weapons removed from patients and visitors. Last year, the Sheriffs removed 3677 weapons at the ER entrance including 4 loaded guns. Since January of this year, 1870 have already been removed at the ER entrance with it being a COVID year with a lower volume of patients and visitors. From July 2019 till June 2020, 76 healthcare workers were assaulted, 2 sexual offenses occurred in the ER, and 15 drive-up gunshot or stabbing victims were intercepted.  When we receive victims of violent crimes, like our gunshot or stabbing victims, the ER has to go on lockdown due to the large gathering of upset people (family/friends) that respond to the hospital and the Sheriff Deputies are the ones that secure the ER.  Without them, we would have so many instances of upset family members breaking through to the patient care areas. This is unfair to the other patients, and to otherwise occupied staff trying to help those patients.

          As you can recall, just last year we had a patient going through a psychiatric crisis who was brandishing a gun on campus trying to get into our Psychiatric Emergency Services Department. We are very lucky to have had our SFSD Deputies who could respond within seconds of the notification to them and safely disarm the man without anyone getting injured. If we would have had to call 911 and wait for officers to respond, who knows how many people would have been shot because of the longer response time.

         The Emergency Department staff endure physical, verbal, and emotional abuse along with other threats on a daily basis.  Recently we had one of our ER nurses thrown to the ground by a patient who then grabbed her hair and bashed her head into the ground. Luckily, we had a Sheriffs Deputy stationed in the highest risk area of the ER that was there to respond immediately, stop the continued assault, and get additional assistance before, what could have been, a potentially more devastating outcome.  This particular nurse was assaulted just a week before her wedding. She nor her now husband, who was also a nurse at SFGH have never returned to work after this assault.

         In the scenario Gebre mentioned in her petition to remove our deputies, it’s clear that she does not know what occurred in the Emergency Department prior to that patient being asked to leave once medically and psychiatrically cleared. The patient was sexually inappropriate in the department and harassing, abusing and threatening to harm staff. Instead, Gebre, and others, came up with their own conclusions and had no idea what had happened prior to the man being escorted out. Nor did they take the time to look for the back story before initiating their dangerous petition.

         We hope that San Francisco General Hospital, the City and County of San Francisco, and the Department of Public Health do not attempt to remove or disarm our San Francisco Sheriffs Department from the hospital and clinics where they protect the essential workers caring for our community. The staff have already mentioned that they will strike if this occurs.  If staff feel their lives are being placed in more danger by removing the Sheriffs, I foresee us losing staff. I have heard many ER staff say that they would never have taken the job at this hospital if they didn’t have Deputies.  Our Sheriff Deputies are essential in keeping us safe because our patient population would not respond to a private security guard who has no jurisdiction to do anything other than tell the offender to stop their behavior. We have many staff members who have worked at multiple facilities who confirmed private security is not allowed to do anything in these threatening situations.

        Thank you for your time and we hope you will do the right thing and keep your staff in a safer work environment by having the San Francisco Sheriff Department remain on campus and in the Emergency Department!

Robert Alvernaz, RN