County officials are moving forward with installing door security at Warren County Heath Department at the request of its director, Andrea Fox.
The measure passed a county Building and Grounds Committee meeting Tuesday with Commissioners Carl Bouldin, Clinton “Pee Wee” Hill and Dwight O’Neal voting in favor of it. Commissioner Michael Martin abstained due to a conflict of interest. Commissioner Bessie Smithson was absent.
Fox requested the county allow her to install an “Access Control System” at the following doors: The two external doors used by staff and four internal doors that lead to the pharmacy, vaccine room, clinic area and clerical/ administrative staff area.
“This system would provide access cards to staff for various doors,” said Fox in a request letter. “It will limit access based upon position. Only approved medical staff will have access to the pharmacy and vaccine room. That access can be granted through the computer software that will run the desired system. The software will log access upon entry of designated doors. The access will be managed by the director.”
Fox says the software will be installed on a computer purchased through the state and cited the following benefits to the system:
• Provide security to staff in not allowing non-staff members access to designated areas, unless escorted by a staff member.
• Provide a log of when someone has accessed the designated doors. This would be helpful to the county director if ever an issue arises in the pharmacy, as well as if staff were working after hours.
• Eliminate the need to issue keys for new employees and retrieving keys when an employee resigns or is dismissed. The access card would be activated and deactivated as needed via the software.
• Eliminate the need to change locks from time to time for fear someone could have made copies of keys, kept a key, etc.
• More secure than a simple key code or key that could be shared by anyone giving access to building and pharmacy.
The letter was presented to the committee by County Executive John Pelham.
“Andrea had approached me about putting in a door security system at the health department like at the courthouse where you have to swipe cards,” said Pelham. “She has the funding in her budget. However, depending on the cost, it might have to be bid out.”
A cost estimate received was in excess of $5,000, meaning the project must be bid out.
While there have been no issues regarding theft of medications by staff, says Pelham, Fox did report to him there was a recent situation where a staff member was threatened in a personal domestic issue and the department took extra measures to prevent the non-staff member from accessing the facility.
Martin questioned the need for card-required security doors within the building.
“I work at the health department,” said Martin, who is a custodian. “The only one with a key to the pharmacy are the nurses. No one else has a key, just the nurses. No one has access to the back, just the nurses. When they call a patient, a nurse walks with them. No one is allowed back there.”
According to Martin, the facility does not keep narcotics in the pharmacy so there are not medications that anyone would want to steal.
“There are no pain medications,” he said. “They don’t even have hydros out there. Mostly, from what I know, it’s only diabetic medicine, antibiotics, vaccine shots and stuff like that.”
Martin says the system will be used to keep tabs on staff.
“She can access the computer at home and see how many times someone went outside,” said Martin. “It’s like spying on people. I just think she’ll be spying on employees.”
Fox was not in attendance to refute Martin’s statements regarding health department procedure, medications at the facility, or the allegation of spying.
Pelham stated, “I’m not here to vote. I’m just here to keep the minutes. I did speak with Andrea at length about this. I respect Michael’s opinion. I will respectfully make this statement. I don’t think she’s wanting it to spy on her people. I really don’t. I believe she was sincere in her request.”
Other committee members voiced a desire to stay on the side of safety.
“I am for keeping everyone as safe as we possibly can in the county,” said Bouldin. “We did work at the courthouse and that’s a wonderful thing. If she feels she needs this for the health department and she’s got the money to do it with and state dollars, I think we should do this if we can.”
O’Neal added, “I don’t want to be quoted as saying I’m for non-security. If something were to happen, I wouldn’t want that on my conscious. That’s where my mindset is at.”
With committee approval, specifications of the work will be generated and the project let out for bids.