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Cleveland Clinic CEO Calls Violence Against Hospital Staff An 'Epidemic'

Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic delivers State of the Clinic speech. [Cleveland Clinic]
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic delivers State of the Clinic speech.

There is an epidemic of violence against hospital staff in the U.S., especially in emergency departments, said Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic at his annual State of the Clinic address Wednesday.

“Daily, literally daily, we are exposed to violent outbursts,” he said to reporters after the address.

Speaking to hundreds of Clinic employees, Mihaljevic said the hospital system confiscated more than 30,000 weapons last year in its Northeast Ohio facilities.

“We are entering a new era in healthcare where we have to have magnetometers and police force at the entry of our emergency rooms, and we really have to focus on making sure we keep our caregivers safe,” he said.

In addition to the metal detectors, the Clinic has placed panic buttons on some employee I.D. badges and installed more safety cameras in its facilities. There are also plain clothes officers in the buildings.

Although it is a global problem, violence has escalated at the Clinic in the past two to three years, Mihaljevic said, adding that it is especially present in the U.S.

According the American College of Emergency Physicians, nearly half of emergency physicians polled reported being physically assaulted. More than 60 percent of them said the assault occurred in the past year.

The opioid epidemic and lack of treatment for people with mental health problems is fueling this crisis, Mihaljevic said.

“I certainly believe the easy access to weapons doesn’t make the situation any easier,” he said.

The Clinic is the largest employer in Cleveland with some 60,000 employees worldwide. The system employs over 50,000 people in Ohio.

Cleveland Clinic Income Down But Growth Continues

The Clinic released its 2018 financial report Monday, showing a major drop in operating income compared to the previous year. The $266 million in operating income for 2018 is a 19 percent drop from the $328 million posted in 2017.

“That is a reflection of the growing and rising cost of healthcare and decreasing reimbursement – the two trends that have been present in healthcare for quite some time,” Mihaljevic said.

Mihaljevic took over as CEO in January 2018, so the numbers released Monday represent the financial picture of the system after his first full year at the helm.

The Clinic also increased its national footprint and added over 6,000 new employees with the acquisition of several Florida hospitals last month.

Locally, the hospital system also plans to expand its presence in Mentor. The Clinic is exploring building a new small facility that will have both inpatient and outpatient services, Mihaljevic said, but he did not have specifics about the size of the facility and the timeline for when it would be built.

The new health education campus in Cleveland is scheduled to open this summer and there are plans to refurbish some of the older facilities on the main campus in Cleveland, he said.

The CEO also announced a major goal for the organization: to double the number of patients it treats over the next five years.

“Doubling the number of patients we serve does not mean we will see twice as many patients in our hospitals. Digital technology will allow us to take care of the patients to see many patients without really ever inviting them to Cleveland Clinic,” he said.

The Clinic’s use of telemedicine to treat patients increased by 70 percent in 2018, Mihaljevic said.

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.