Dixie Regional reports on successful integration of St. George Police at hospital

An aerial view of the Dixie Regional Medical Center River Road campus, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Officials at Dixie Regional Medical Center say a recently implemented public safety partnership between the hospital and the city of St. George is off to a great start.

During a public meeting at St. George City Hall Thursday evening, Dixie Regional Governing Board Chairman Brian Chadaz reported on the implementation of an agreement with the city to station St. George Police officers at the hospital full time.

“Our emergency department, as you might imagine, that is a very volatile area. Accidents come in there, we have drug situations, domestic violence,” Chadaz said. “Emotions are high – things happen.

“Our physicians and our caretakers said, ‘We are nervous. We need more help and security there than we presently have.’”

In the agreement approved by the City Council in February, the St. George Police Department is providing the hospital with several officers trained specifically for duty at the hospital.

Read more: City agrees to station police officers at Dixie Regional Medical Center full time

As Southern Utah’s population continues to grow, Dixie Regional officials say they have made increasing safety at the hospital’s sprawling, ever-growing campus a priority.

“The hospital has a security force – they do a great job – but we felt it was necessary to have a trained police officer there that was armed to be able to diffuse situations or take care of situations,” Chadaz said.

Within a matter of days of the partnership’s implementation, Chadaz said one such situation arose and was handled quickly by the newly hired police officer.

A St. George Police officer cordons a crime scene in St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“Our caregivers are appreciative of this service that we now have and feel much safer,” he said.

Currently, one officer stationed at the hospital’s emergency department covers all areas of the hospital. As more officers are trained, the plan is to eventually have five policemen on alternating shifts provide 24-hour coverage every day of the year.

“I think we have a contract in place that will probably be used as a template for other communities who want to do such an arrangement as this,” Chadaz said.

Under the terms of the contract, the hospital is paying 85 percent of the officer’s salaries, with the city contributing 15 percent.

Including salaries, benefits, vehicles and equipment, the cost for five officers for one year is projected to be $505,015, of which the city pays $75,752.25. The city agreed to this arrangement in part because if its benefit to the Police Department.

“I think there are some benefits that go both ways,” Chadaz said. “That campus is huge, and so to have a police officer and officers there that are familiar with the campus, if there’s an emergency, they are familiar which building to go to.”

The officers are also officially employed with the St. George Police Department, meaning they can cover for other officers stationed throughout the city when not working at the hospital.

“I feel really good about that,” Mayor Jon Pike said of the agreement. “I think it’s a great model.”

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