Researchers find surveillance cameras are beneficial to patients, staff in psychiatric hospitals

The main purpose of video cameras in hospitals of all kinds is to prevent theft, smoking and various other violations of the law on the premises.

CCTV security camera (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
CCTV security camera
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Using video camera surveillance in the public areas – and possibly even the private wards – of mental health centers to minimize abuse of patients and staffers has been recommended by psychiatrists at the Lev Hasharon Mental Health Center in Netanya.
Dr. Tali Stolovy and Dr.Yuval Melamed of the psychiatric hospital and outgoing Health Ministry director-general Prof Arnon Afek make this recommendation in the latest (May 2015) issue of IMAJ, the Israel Medical Association Journal.
“The major benefit is that it enables 24-hour monitoring of patients, which has the potential to reduce violent and aggressive behavior. The main disadvantage is that such observation is by nature obtrusive,” the authors wrote.
The academic, medium-tolarge- sized mental health center uses closed-circuit video surveillance and is pleased with it, the authors wrote. The main purpose of video cameras in hospitals of all kinds is to prevent theft, smoking and various other violations of the law on the premises.
Their use in psychiatric hospitals was promoted by the UK Department of Health, which campaigned for “Zero Tolerance” of violence against staffers, especially in mental health facilities.
Only some psychiatric facilities use camera surveillance today. A decade ago, Lev Hasharon initially adopted closed-circuit TV in seclusion and restraint rooms, they wrote, and did not record the goings on. But a few years later, it was decided to use them for both security and clinical supervision of all public places, including the parking lot, corridors, TV rooms and entrances to dining rooms. Prominent signs inform patients, staffers and visitors of the presence of the cameras.
The authors noted that schizophrenia patients are “four times more likely” to behave aggressively than other patients. When the staff members were interviewed, they agreed that video increased their feeling of security and reduced the amount of violence against them. “It can also encourage better practice by deterring staff from mistreating patients, who, along with their families, feel better when they know there is surveillance.
Surveillance also helps “clarify the situation and mitigates any conflict between two versions of the same event.”
As an example of its beneficial uses, the authors told the story of a middle-aged woman who was hospitalized in the long-term closed ward. Her husband went to the police and accused a staff member of being violent toward his wife. When the relevant tapes were examined, it was determined that the woman had attacked with a thrown chair another patient who was lying on the floor. The accused staff member grabbed the woman and restrained her by holding her from the back. The police complaint was canceled.
In another case, a staff member was shown shoving the last patient going to the dining room; the new employee was fired.
As some patients are confined mostly to their beds, using cameras inside patients’ private rooms is problematic, but they can deter neglect and abuse. As the rooms are hospital property, it could be argued that they are “not private space.” Their presence have not caused any paranoid symptoms. Staffers should try to explain the meaning and function of the cameras to patients, they concluded.