VCU Health rolling out new weapons screening process following deadly shooting

Tighter security at VCU Medical Center. Four months after a deadly shooting between co-workers, the hospital system is rolling out weapons detection systems.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 6:26 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center has tighter security in place nearly four months after a deadly shooting between co-workers.

The hospital is now rolling out weapons detection systems.

VCU’s chief of police says the deadly shooting in the hospital stairwell was a driving reason for getting more weapons scanners.

When that incident happened, there were only detectors near the emergency room. Now, they are going to be everywhere. It’s to help make a place that’s supposed to save lives even safer.

“That was a determining factor on making the decision to ensure that the environment is for people who are coming to seek medical care and that it is a safe environment for everyone to visit VCU Health,” VCU Chief of Police and associate vice president for public safety for VCU and VCU Health John Venuti said.

Venuti says a few months ago, the hospital had “open public access,” other than in the emergency area, where there was weapons screening. Now, anybody entering the buildings will have to go through the detectors.

Bigger items like laptops and umbrellas will need to be taken out of bags, but Venuti says it should be a quick process, and he says staff and patients have been giving him positive feedback on the additional safety.

“It is totally noninvasive, it is a minimal inconvenience. The technology generally, you don’t have to divest household items like your cell phone and your keys, and you pass right through,” Venuti said.

The process will look similar to what one goes through for big sports games or concerts now. Venuti says VCU modeled it based on other hospitals, and it took many conversations to find the best system. A lot of planning and money went into getting the new devices, as each one is around $19,000 and more security staff was hired to help too.

“Not every healthcare system is doing weapons detection, but I think you’ll find, as we lean into the future, more and more healthcare systems are, you know, they want a weapons-free environment where people can come to, to heal,” Venuti said.

Detectors are also going up at the children’s hospital’s Wonder Tower and brook road campus--those will be up and running by the end of next week. The detectors are all rolling out in phases around the medical center. Anyone who is unable to go through one is supposed to make the staff aware, and then will have an option for hand wands for security.