Security guards at Nassau University Medical Center will be able to wear metal badges after hospital administrators shelved a policy that mandated new uniforms featuring embroidered badges, officials said.
Administrators had expressed concern that the sharp pins on badges could be ripped off and used as weapons, officials said. George Tsunis, chairman of the Nassau Health Care Corp., also known as NuHealth, said Wednesday night at a meeting of the health system's board of directors that administrators would reverse the plan to drop the badges.
He was responding to Jerry Laricchiuta, president of Nassau's Civil Service Employees Association, who called badges a visible sign of authority.
“Let’s not go backwards on security,” Laricchiuta said at the meeting. “I would ask the board to at least know that I don’t think this is a time that we should be taking their badges away, and any other tools that they are licensed to and trained to use. This is the time we should be bolstering them up.”
“We want to keep our security force, we need them, they do a great job," Laricchiuta said. "Let’s not emasculate them to the point where they lose even more authority,”
In an interview Thursday, Laricchiuta called metal badges, "a symbol in the hospital against people who might have bad intentions."
Tsunis said, “we’re nimble here . . . we will go back" to metal badges.
Former NuHealth CEO and President Dr. Victor F. Politi, whom the board terminated in April, originally suggested the switch to embroidered badges, according to his attorney, Ronald Rosenberg. Politi has said the patches "are safer" than metal badges whose "sharp pins which can be ripped off the security staff’s shirt and used as a weapon," Rosenberg said.
Politi was fired with cause by the board, which did not provide a reason for his firing, but issued him a severance package. Rosenberg has blamed politics for Politi's firing.
Karen Contino, a spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, said in a statement, "The safety of all security, public safety and corrections officers is a top priority for the county executive and her administration. All of our public safety personnel who wear badges have badges with existing safety precautions, which prevent the badge from being pulled off."
Brian Sullivan, president of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said correction officers and police officers at the county jail in East Meadow wear detachable shields that vary depending on the officer's rank.
Brian Finnegan, a NuHealth spokesman, said the policy change was communicated in March and hospital officials distributed the new uniforms that identified authorized hospital security officers. The new directive from Tsunis, who began as board chairman in February, will take effect next month, Finnegan said.
Also Wednesday, the NuHealth board established the Nassau Health Care Corp. Safety Committee, to include board trustees, hospital employees, and union members. Tsunis asked administrators Wednesday to reach out to the Nassau County Police Department to conduct a security assessment and review of the hospital's premises.
Chief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office said while a majority of correction officers display metal badges, special response teams wear uniforms with patches.
“They’re more likely to be involved in a hands-on situation in the facility where having a shield on you could potentially be a liability, a problem,” said Sharkey.