Research Continues on How to Provide Tighter Security at Hospital

Stephens County Hospital CEO Mike Hester said they are closer to coming up with a way to provide more security for patients and staff.

Earlier this year, Hospital officials approached the City about the use of Toccoa Police officers to provide security after an altercation in the ER in which an unruly visitor disrupted hospital staff and had to be subdued by police.

A tentative agreement between the City and the Hospital was outlined last month by City Manager Billy Morse at a City Commission work session.

“The hospital will pay the City $35/per hour worked by each officer. In turn, the City will pay the officer $30/hr. The balance will help cover the City’s administrative costs,” Morse began. “The City will prepare the work schedule. The City will provide worker’s compensation benefits. The qualifications for the job are equal to a police officer, but the duties are typical of a security guard. The officers will be considered independent contractors paid by the City.”

However, Commissioner Jeanette Jamieson told the Board she believed the agreement, as drawn up, was not fair either to the officers or to the City because of 1099 tax issues.

“ I understand that we need to help the hospital. If they choose to contract or work for the hospital on their days off, they become a hospital employee. They’re subject to the hospital’s workman’s comp policy. If they agree to do a 1099 strictly with the hospital that takes the City out of it. We are not liable for what happens while they are out there.”

Ultimately, Commissioners agreed to put off the contract in favor of doing more research and looking at other options.

At their meeting Monday evening, Hester told the Toccoa City Commission he has been researching different ways to move forward.

“I did call a former facility where I worked.  They used to provide police services for the facility through the City directly through contracts so they were employees of the City,” Hester said. “They terminated that agreement because of the workers comp. They went to an individually contracted model, which I think may still produce some concerns….So I appreciate you being patient on that. I know it’s not easy and it does take a lot of moving parts.”

Hester told the Board Monday his office is close to coming up with a security plan to submit to the City, but he said he was not yet ready to elaborate on the details of that plan.