News of Courtney Helms’ Nov. 12 attack as she walked from the employee parking lot to Southeast Health likely sent chills along the spines of the hospital’s almost 2,700 employees, most of whom make that same walk twice a day.

Helms said she noticed someone on a bicycle behind her, and was soon struggling with an assailant, who ultimately made off with her purse.

“He kept pulling on my arm and jacket, yelling at me to come with him, and get up or he would shoot me. He did have a gun pointed at me,” she said.

Helms believes if she had followed the suspect’s orders, she would have been shot, raped or killed. She thinks the man just took the purse because the situation was taking too much time.

To their credit, hospital officials wasted no time in exploring strategies to ensure the safety of workers as they move between the medical complex and the parking area a block away. They’ve contacted property owners with an offer to cut back brush and put up fencing at the hospital’s expense; they’ve asked the city to re-evaluate street lighting; and they’ve increased shuttle-bus routes during early-morning and late-night shift changes. A neighboring building housing Radiology Associates will add lighting to the building’s exterior.

It should be comforting that Dothan police have made an arrest in the robbery. However, hospital officials must continue to find ways to make their employees feel safe as they come and go.

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