ELLSWORTH — Patients and visitors may see a new face at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital come this spring: an officer from the Ellsworth Police Department.
“People often ask me, what keeps me up at night?” said John Ronan, president of Maine Coast Hospital, at the hospital’s annual meeting on Tuesday evening. “Making sure our patients and our staff are safe every day.”
The hospital would fund the full-time position but the officer would be an employee of the Ellsworth Police Department.
The cost would likely be around $70,000 to $80,000 for the first year, Ronan said.
“We’re pleased to do this,” Ronan said. “We’re hoping that in the February-March timeframe this program will be up and running.”
The City Council would have to approve the position, an arrangement that would be similar to that of a school resource officer.
Ronan said the officer would not be at the hospital 24/7 and that he is working with Ellsworth Police Department Chief Glenn Moshier to determine what times of day such a service would be most effective.
Ronan said in a separate interview that having an officer at the hospital is something he has wanted to do for several years, in part because of concerns over domestic violence.
“This hospital is safer than it’s ever been,” Ronan said, but there have been unsettling incidents when staff members have felt endangered and police have been called.
Although shootings at hospitals are rare, a high-profile incident in Chicago last month brought the issue into headlines. In that incident, in which three people were killed, a man shot his former fiancée, an emergency room doctor, reportedly over a broken engagement.
Ronan also told those who attended the meeting on Tuesday that agents from the Department of Homeland Security will be visiting the hospital in the coming months to make recommendations for safety improvements.
Ronan said later that he wants to ensure the hospital continues to be open and welcoming but that this must be balanced with the safety and security of patients and staff.