FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Business has been brisk at the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center main lobby's new information desk.
"Sir, can I help you? You need a visitor's pass," security guard Carolyn Larimore said to yet another pharmacy customer who strolled by the desk Wednesday afternoon.
The passes are a new security measure introduced at the Owen Drive hospital this week. Visitors must scan their photo identification upon arrival, or have a digital photo taken for a pass that expires after 12 or 24 hours. A sticker affixed to the pass slowly turns into a stop sign to show when it's out of date.
Also, the number of entrances open to the hospital's 3,500 daily visitors has been cut from 35 to eight.
Hospital officials say the measures are general security enhancements and not related to any specific threat.
"It's been working really smoothly," spokesman Donnie Byers said Wednesday.
Besides the main lobby, visitors may enter at the Valley Pavilion entrance from the parking deck; the loading dock rear entrance; the Melrose Road entrance; the rehab center inpatient entrance; the Cancer Center; and both the adult and pediatric emergency departments.
The other 27 entrances were used mostly by employees, Byers said, and now will be restricted as such.
"Even employees now, if they don't have a badge, they can't get in the building," he said.
The steady stream of visitors filing by the new security desk Wednesday didn't seem troubled by the intrusion or the short delay.
"It's a hospital," said Dermetrius McGirt, who was visiting the pharmacy. "If they're wanting to protect everybody, they have to do what they have to do."
The new measures took effect Tuesday but had a dry run the day before.
"We've been getting accolades," said Maj. Dwayne Porter, the hospital's security manager. "People feel like it's safer."
About three weeks ago, the hospital began temporary restrictions on visitors because of flu. Children younger than 12 are not allowed to visit.
Cape Fear Valley plans to impose the tighter security measures at Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital and Bladen County Hospital in the coming months.
"Next time you come in, you can just give them your last name and it'll pop right up, OK?" Larimore said to Sylvia Yon as she arrived for a visit.
Yon said she had no problem showing her ID for the sake of safety.
"All the horror stories you hear," she said, "it's no inconvenience."
Staff writer Gregory Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3596. ___