Expert Calls for More Crisis Planning After Hospital Shooting

LONG BEACH, Calif.

A crisis-prevention expert urged health-care campuses to review their safety practices and implement additional policies, following the shooting deaths of three Long Beach Memorial Medical Center workers.

Judging by news accounts of the incident, the medical center appeared to follow the proper procedures, according to Bill Badzmierowski, director of instructor services at the Crisis Prevention Institute in Brookfield, Wisc.

Badzmierowski also urged hospitals and other health-care campuses to establish a crisis response team, provide advanced training to the team and improve communication with employees.

On April 16, a gunman is suspected of shooting his supervisor and another manager before turning the gun on himself, police said. All three died during the incident.

The incident occurred about 15 minutes before noon, when Mario Ramirez, a 50-year-old pharmacy technician, came to work with two guns. He then shot his boss, Hugo Bustamante, 46, in the face. Ramirez then went to find Kelly Hales, 56, who he shot and killed outside of the emergency room. Ramirez then shot himself in the head, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ramirez may have heard a rumor about layoffs at the hospital, which was immediately locked down. The fear of a pending layoff can set off an emotionally fragile employee, Badzmierowski said.

“We don’t know if he was going to be laid off,” Badzmierowski said. “We always have to show good will toward employees when doing that sort of thing.”

Layoff planning is usually confidential, but hospitals can find ways to communicate with employees and offer those who have been picked for layoffs various job training resources.

It’s also important for managers to watch for erratic behavior from their employees, he added.

“Noticing any change in an employee may not mean violence but it’s important to check in with them to make sure things are OK,” he said. “So often, we walk away from these things. I’m not saying the hospital did this.”

The institute maintains two websites that offer resources to health-care administrators for training and crisis prevention.

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