Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2014

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Hospital uses armed man in unannounced drill

Test of security procedures results in frightening moments

How’s this for an ill-conceived emergency preparedness drill? An off-duty cop pretending to be a terrorist stormed into a hospital intensive care unit brandishing a handgun, which he pointed at nurses while herding them down a corridor and into a room.

There, after harrowing moments, he explained that the whole caper was a training exercise.

The staff at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-Siena Campus, where the incident took place Monday morning, found the exercise more traumatizing than instructive.

Hospital employees would have been justified in fearing for their lives.

Just last year, Henderson police shot and killed an armed, hostile man in the emergency room. So it would make sense that security and emergency preparedness have been a focus at the hospital.

But in Monday’s incident, which occurred in a unit that houses the hospital’s sickest patients, nurses, patients and their families did not know it was a drill, said Renee Ruiz, organizer of the California Nurses Association, which represents staff at the hospital.

“There are significant safety issues here,” Ruiz said. “We would never condone a drill like this. We put the safety of the patients and nurses and hospital staff first and foremost.”

Ruiz said the union is investigating the incident. Many people saw the gunman, she said, and the union is gathering statements and talking to hospital administrators.

Andy North, director of public policy and external affairs for the hospital, apologized for any distress caused by the incident. There’s been an “ongoing effort to try and make (emergency preparedness drills) as realistic as possible,” he said, but the goal is not to scare or harm anyone.

He said as many as 10 employees were involved in the incident and no one was hurt. The actor was from a local police department, North said.

The staff was supposed to have been told in advance of the exercise, but there was a “disconnect,” North said. That won’t happen again, he said.

State regulators who license hospitals said Friday the incident may warrant investigation, depending on whether patient care was compromised.

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