Bassett Healthcare Network announced today it is expanding its K-9 security program in 2023. This past fall, the team welcomed Coal, a bicolor German Shepherd, and his partner, Ryan Salisbury. An additional K-9 unit will join the health system this winter.
Bassett’s growing K-9 Security team is possible due to the generous support of Jane Forbes Clark of Cooperstown. “We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Clark for her generosity,” says Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President & CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network. “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.”
Coal and Ryan started on September 27, 2022. The two had been training together since August. Coal, along with Bassett’s other security K-9, Hudson, rotate across Bassett’s hospital and clinic campuses to help meet the increased security needs health care workers face today. Bassett Healthcare Network, like hundreds of other health systems and hospitals across the country, 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.
Salisbury sees Coal’s positive effect on difficult situations every day. “If people are getting agitated and they see a dog coming, it settles them quickly,” says Salisbury. “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,” says 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.”
K-9 dogs can offer comfort and reassurance. “Patients, staff, and visitors are always happy to see Coal—especially kids,” says Salisbury. Like Hudson, Coal will have his own baseball-style trading card available for young patients and visitors who wish to collect them.
A third dog, a German shepherd named Ryker, recently retired from his duties as a K-9. He served as part of Bassett’s Security team for more than a year. “Ryker provided amazing service to our patients and employees,” says Southworth. “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 consists of more than 60 security officers who staff five hospitals and over two dozen regional health centers, acting as a safety resource for staff, patients, and visitors. They respond to emergencies and are the organization’s liaison with area law enforcement.