Bassett adds K9 unit to its security force

Jan. 11—Bassett Healthcare Network announced Wednesday it is expanding its K-9 security program in 2023.

Last year, the security team added Coal, a bicolor German Shepherd, and his partner, Ryan Salisbury. An additional K-9 unit will join the health system this winter, according to a Bassett media release.

Bassett credited Jane Forbes Clark of Cooperstown for support of the security dogs. "We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Clark for her generosity," said Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, president and CEO of Bassett. "Over the past few years, Bassett's K-9 program has been very successful. We are so proud of the important work our K-9 unit and Security personnel do every day to keep our patients, visitors, and staff members safe."

Salisbury and Coal started on Sept. 27 after training together since August, the release said. Coal, along with Bassett's other security dog, Hudson, "rotate across Bassett's hospital and clinic campuses to help meet the increased security needs health care workers face today," the release said.

According to the release, Bassett "has seen a significant uptick in instances of physical and verbal assault towards health care workers in recent years." K-9 units "are often able to quickly defuse tense situations before they escalate," the release said.

"If people are getting agitated and they see a dog coming, it settles them quickly," Salisbury said. "Meanwhile, it gives others in the room a sense of safety."

"Coal and Hudson are extremely intelligent, highly in tune with their environments, and adaptable to the moment," said Harold Southworth, director of Public Safety and Transportation at Bassett, who has led the development of the organization's K-9 program. "They add a new level of expertise and human connection to our Security team."

A third dog, a German shepherd named Ryker, recently retired from his duties as a security dog, the release said. He served as part of Bassett's security team for more than a year. "Ryker provided amazing service to our patients and employees," Southworth said. "Ryker has now retired, and we are grateful for his service. Jared, his former handler, remains part of our Security team. Ryker is enjoying his retirement with Jared's family."

In addition to its K-9 units, Bassett's Security Department is composed of of more than 60 security officers who staff five hospitals and more than two dozen regional health centers, according to the release.