There are typically two “code whites” a week at Toronto East General Hospital, signalling that a violent situation is unfolding somewhere in the facility.

It can be patient on staff or even staff on staff.

“One of the issues that has existed in hospitals for the longest time, but really doesn’t get talked about much is violence against health-care workers,” said Toronto East General president Rob Devitt.

Six months ago, Toronto East General started a “zero tolerance” campaign to address the problem of workplace violence and has already succeeded in reducing response time by security to an average of 59 seconds from 21/2 minutes.

What’s made the difference is a small, white device — described by one hospital staffer as something “straight out of Star Trek” — that can be clipped onto a shirt or worn around the neck on a lanyard. Called a Vocera, it’s a wireless device that allows for instant

communication between security and staff. A quick double click of the iPod-like gizmo opens up a hands-free, two-way line between a staffer who’s in trouble and every security officer in the building. It lets security know exactly where the problem is.