Mac's Safety Space: Who knows where the time goes?

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

Originally, I had planned this for sometime in January, but suddenly I find myself on the cusp of February (in complete candor, my Christmas tree is still “up;” it continues to “drink” and it’s probably the most fragrant tree we’ve ever had, so I am loathe to start removing decorations, etc.—trees know when you give up on them) and the “packing up the decorations” conversation is way past due.

I’m guessing that you folks have already crossed the post-holiday Rubicon, but if you have thoughts or concerns about the storage of holiday decorations (hint: make sure you keep close tabs on the documentation of listing for electrical safety and/or non-combustibility), you might find some useful information in this article from January (even as I write this, it seems unimaginably long ago).

One of the newer constants in our conversations over the last little while has been the management of the physical environment as a function of managing the risks associated with providing care, treatment & services to behavioral health (BH) patients. And, as we continue to think about expanding services into the community at large (where everything eventually becomes a portal), there are some considerations relating to how we provide a safe environment for patients in crisis.

I think we’re likely to continue this conversation and see a lot of information in setting things up in a way that both minimizes safety risks to the extent possible, as well as providing a therapeutic environment for these most vulnerable patients. A good starting point is the recent article in Health Facilities Management magazine that discusses the recent Facilities Guidelines Institute (FGI) white paper, elements of which are included in the 2022 edition of the FGI Guidelines “For The Design & Construction” documents. The white paper includes consideration of design elements to enhance the patient experience, improving the health of the behavioral health patient population, and reducing costs as a function of being able to manage this challenging patient population in an environment that allows for emergency departments/emergency rooms (ED/ERs) to efficiently board medically cleared BH patients (and lessen the impact of the boarding process on the remainder of the ED/ER patient flow).

The boarding of behavioral health patients awaiting further evaluation and/or placement in an appropriate facility has been a challenge for as far back as I can remember (at least to the mid-1980’s) and I think this might be one worth solving (or at least improving the current state). More on this as developments emerge…

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at