Woman gives birth outside hospital after she can’t get inside. Should hospitals set new standards for security staff?

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published March 27, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • A Quebec security guard was fired after a woman gave birth outside of a hospital where they worked. She was unable to enter the hospital. 

  • In the US, hospital security staff are not always legally responsible for caring for patients—but leadership can still fire workers who are not performing well at their job.

  • Educating security about how to help patients get into the hospital can be an essential part of keeping patients and doctors safe.

Under US law, hospital security staff aren’t typically required to care for patients. Still, security staff can help both doctors and patients by quickly directing patients to hospital entrances and access to medical care. If security staff do not know how to do this, it can be essential for leadership to educate them—or update their job requirements. 

A security guard at a Quebec hospital was fired after failing to help a woman who gave birth outside the facilities.

According to a report by The Canadian Press, the woman arrived at the hospital at night and found that the main doors were locked. Hospital staff discovered the woman and her newborn baby the next morning. A hospital spokesperson said that the main doors are locked at night but that other entrances are open for emergencies.[]

Going forward, the hospital says it will improve signage to direct patients to the proper emergency entrances at night and remind employees of the “importance of explaining to future parents how to access the facilities,” The Canadian Press reported.[]

The situation raises questions about how well hospital security is trained to handle emergency situations and whether changes are needed.

Duties of a security guard

The exact tasks and duties of a security guard may vary from place to place, depending on the worker’s contract and what is asked of them by their employers. 

Jared Ross MD, the founder and president of Emergency Medical Services, Education & Consulting (EMSEC), LLC, and a board-certified emergency medicine physician in Bolivar, MO, says that security guards “have an ethical duty to act within their scope of training,” but—so long as they are not also trained medical professionals—are generally not responsible for administering care that is outside their scope of training.

“Security, like sworn police officers, generally have no legal duty to act in either a law enforcement or medical capacity,” Jared says.

Furthermore, security guards may not be legally responsible for providing security services to every individual. Dr. Ross explains that this is due to Warren v. District of Columbia, a court case that determined that police do not have a specific legal duty to provide protection to any particular individual—despite their duty to protect the greater group of the public—unless a special relationship between the police and an individual is determined.[]

This doesn’t mean that security guards are above the law, though. They can be in trouble in negligence lawsuits if their actions or failure to perform certain actions result in harm and if they are found to have acted unreasonably. Even if they act within the law, a guard can be fired if an employer is unhappy with their work.[]

What should hospitals ask of security guards?

Setting standards for hospital security staff can be challenging due to the sheer number of hospitals that exist and the number of security personnel required.

“It is challenging to make any generalizations about the medical or, for that matter, law enforcement training of hospital security,” Dr. Ross says. “Many smaller hospitals have no security staff, while others have varying levels of training and may or may not be armed.”

For some hospitals—the Quebec hospital included—however, educating security about the importance of directing patients to hospital entrances may be the first line of business.

What this means for you

Hospital security staff aren’t typically required to provide medical care for patients. Still, security staff can help patients access medical care by directing them to hospital entrances. If security staff do not know how to do this, leadership may want to provide new education—or update security personnel’s job requirements.

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