The Lee Memorial Health System is implementing a new ID pass system for the public for the first time Monday in an effort to enhance facility security.
Lee Memorial Hospital will be the first facility in the system to utilize the Fast Pass identification system. Visitors seeking to pass through the lobby into the hospital will receive a photo name badge that is good for the day.
"Patient safety is a very high priority for us, so we're always looking for what we can do to make our patients and visitors safe," Mary Briggs, a Lee Memorial Health System spokeswoman, said.
The ID system will be used at the three public entrances, with three new machines installed at $6,300 a piece. Visitors need to provide a state-issued ID, like a driver's license, and state where or to what room they are going.
"We funnel people into three different entrances," she said of the Lee Memorial Hospital layout. "We do have a Fast Pass at each of those."
The machines print out adhesive badges containing each visitor's photo and destination, along with the current date, to be worn inside of the facility.
"It helps us know who's in the building and why they're there," Briggs said, adding that security will keep an eye out for those not wearing badges.
"They might stop and question that person, ask them where they're going and help them get to where they're going," she said.
Building security will also have a more visible presence, with officers stationed in each lobby entrance. The facility has added six employees.
"We have been adding additional security staff," Briggs said.
The ID system does hold onto visitors' information after the first visit, so the process of obtaining a badge should take less time for future visits.
According to Briggs, Fast Pass is not new to the LMHS. The system was already being used for contractors, plumbers and others visiting for work.
"This is the first time it's becoming a public thing," she said.
Similar systems are often used by school systems and cruise lines.
"This one is kind of the standard for the industry," Briggs said.
Within the next few months, Gulf Coast Medical Center will be the second facility in the health system to receive Fast Pass. Cape Coral Hospital and HealthPark Medical Center will follow. There is no deadline for completion.
According to Briggs, the decision to move forward with security enhancements at the four facilities was made at the end of last year.
"I think what happened in Newtown would be part of the equation," she said, noting that there was also a shooting at a Collier hospital a few years ago.
"It's just been kind of a gradual growing awareness in our mind," Briggs said.
"Security is something that we're looking at all the time."
Officials expect temporary delays in entering Lee Memorial Hospital as staffers get used to the new process. The public is asked to be patient.
"We recognize that, especially in the beginning, it may take a little longer to get into the hospital," she said. "We're not trying to make it hard to get into the hospital to see your loved one."