Armed Guards greet patients : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Armed Guards greet patients By Nina Wu Of The Examiner Staff

Security guards at San Francisco General Hospital turned away dozens of patients in the last week, a majority of them poor, because they could not provide proper identification, The Examiner has learned.

Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, hospital administrators posted armed guards at the front-door entrance, requiring visitors and incoming patients to present identification or a physician's appointment slip.

At the front-door entrance, employees had to enter on the left side and patients and visitors had to enter on the right.

The move contradicts the traditionally open spirit of the hospital, said Nora Roman, a triage nurse in the women's clinic. Roman said it intimidated a large number of refugees seeking medical help.

"We have never had armed guards glaring at people when they walk through the door," she said. "It goes against everything advocates for lowering health barriers have been working for."

Roman, a hospital employee for more than 20 years, said she's particularly concerned for more than half her patients -- undocumented refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, the Middle East and China. Though she could not confirm the exact count of those turned away, Roman said she had no patients Thursday.

"People who don't speak English are fearful that if they show their ID, they'll get deported," said Lynn Carman, an attorney for the Emergency Coalition to Save Public Health, a nonprofit group monitoring the situation.

"We regard this as unnecessary." No other Bay Area hospital has implemented similar security measures, Carman said.

The security measures were relaxed after the hospital received calls from a reporter on Wednesday, although all entrances still are monitored by security staff.

John Kanaley, a senior administrator for San Francisco General said that he was unaware of any complaints being filed.

"Just like the rest of The City, many new measures have been put into place to address the anxiety and security concerns," Kanaley said. "We understand it's helped both patients and staff feel safer in their work environment."

San Francisco General has an average of 400,000 visitors annually, with about 200 seeking emergency care every day.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 24, 2001

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