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Winnipeg Health Authority deploys networked access control

Eight years ago Jacques Gagne was hired by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to establish a comprehensive security program for the organization. Before he started in 2003, there was no broad-based program in place — each facility had its own systems and nothing tied in together.


June 20, 2011
By Jennifer Brown


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“When I first started, there was nothing in place regionally except at some of the larger hospitals,” says Gagne, regional manager, security services & special projects.

The Winnipeg Health Region is a large organization with 22,000 employees, eight hospitals, one long term care centre, more than 20 nursing homes and a similar number of community based public clinics and a number of other ancillary services. There are also 8,000 employees working in community-based programs.

Gagne established the security program to provide protective, preventive and investigative services to all of these locations with the exception of three larger hospitals. The scope was huge.

Among his priorities was an access control system. Some of the facilities had card access within their buildings but mostly it was tied into other integrated systems.

“Part of my role was not to reinvent the wheel for facilities but we have a large community-based component — a lot of public clinics and they had nothing in place. My task was to figure out what they needed,” he says.

He started by doing security and threat assessments of what was on site in terms of locksets and alarm systems. It was determined 80 per cent of the Health Authority’s facilities and programs had nothing in place.

“It was a hodge-podge of locksets. Some had alarm systems because we lease a lot of sites so different landlords had different things in place and it hadn’t been kept up-to-date. The biggest thing became coming up with a game plan and standardizing on a product to put in all of these facilities,” says Gagne.

He wanted to find the most efficient way to control access given the number of employees, the hours of operation and the cost.

“Every time somebody loses a key you don’t want to start re-keying so card access fit the bill,” he says.

The Health Authority went to RFP looking for a security company that would provide products and services but not only supply product and maintain it but in the process also agreed to subcontract out to other providers because many sites had to be retrofit with electric strikes or mag locks to facilitate access control.

“We got one company to do that — AAA Alarms, now a subsidiary of MTS Allstream,  and they came on board and we signed a five-year RFP in the fall of 2003 and they laid out a product line to meet our needs,” says Gagne.

The decision was to go with Honeywell Burg panels. For card access the suggested system was Keyscan System 5. Over the next four years they installed the system at 12 locations and in time, moved on to System 7, updating all System 5 sites.

“We’ve gone from 12 locations to close to 22 and growing. I have three capital projects on the go and we’re putting in Keyscan at those sites,” says Gagne.

Working with Andreas Dahms, Keyscan’s Western Canadian representative, they put the entire Keyscan platform on the Health Authority’s Wide Area Network.

Manitoba eHealth, the IT group for the province, has worked with Gagne and his team to make sure all the Keyscan sites are linked across the network. That means all maintenance of the systems can be done across the network.

“It’s unique to us in health care because it covers the entire city of Winnipeg,” says Gagne.

He uses just one another product at two other sites — Viscount Systems Inc., out of Vancouver utilizing their MESH product.

“I’ve done it as a standalone solution for two separate locations because sometimes due to costs we have had to come up with alternative solutions. MESH has some restrictions and doesn’t allow for a lot of redundancy,” he says. “But now we’re backing up both those sites with new servers.”

Since the mobile guard team can’t check every site in an eight-hour time frame, if there is an alarm on a site they can use the system to log onto the network. Then they are able to scan through the program and determine which site needs attention remotely and determine if they can over-ride it electronically. If there is an issue, they can go to do an actual site inspection.

“My mobile patrol team can drive up to any site, log in and check the status of any other of the 21 locations remotely. We can lock or unlock doors by a click on the keyboard,” says Gagne.

Gagne says the cost savings is fairly substantial although he did not enter into the networked access control deployment with an actual return on investment in mind.

“Initially I thought we would only do eight or nine locations. When I started this project capital construction was slow, but since 2007-2008 the growth has been substantial and it’s exploded. I more or less increased coverage by 45 per cent in the last three years,” he says. “But if you consider what the investment would have been to do individual sites, the savings are probably considerable.”

Two years ago Gagne also started a project to make the CCTV surveillance system accessible via the Internet and tied in with the access control system.

“I had greater visions for this thing. I had seen what Alberta Health Services had done to monitor remotely through one location/one control room. Out of 22 locations four are IP addressable,” he says.

A new community birthing centre will be IP addressable and will be one of the first where all systems are full integrated from the back end — card access, burg panel, Aiphone and CCTV synched in real time.

“If we get an alarm offsite after hours the mobile alarm can see what the issues are by accessing CCTV and Keyscan systems and see all access control points,” he says.


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