A doctor and former employee of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center opened fire at the hospital on Friday, killing a doctor and injuring six other individuals before taking his own life.
Bronx-Lebanon clinicians provided immediate medical care for six other victims of the attack, which likely averted more casualties, according to chief physician Zid Sridhar Chilimuri. "Timely action is what saved lives that day," Chilimuri said.
Background on the gunman
The shooter, Henry Bello, had resigned from the hospital in February 2015 after working there for six months. He faced allegations of sexual harassment from a colleague and chose to resign rather than face termination.
According to Becker's Hospital Review, Bello had a criminal record that Bronx-Lebanon VP Errol Schneer said the hospital was unaware of when Bello was hired in 2014. Bello's criminal record included charges of burglary and beating in 2003, sex abuse and unlawful imprisonment in 2004, and unlawful surveillance in 2009.
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"At that time, and as a result of a human resources and security department background check, which includes fingerprinting, there was no record of any conviction for sexual abuse," Schneer said.
After sending an email claiming grievances against the hospital to the New York Daily News, Bello went to the hospital on Friday in search of a doctor whom he blamed for his resignation, according to a law enforcement official. The physician was not at the hospital at that time.
At 2:50 p.m. Bello opened fire, using an AR-15 he had concealed in a cardboard box. According to witnesses, someone in the hospital announced "Code Silver" over the loudspeaker, indicating an active shooter was in the building.
After shooting six people on the 16th floor of the hospital, Bello moved to the 17th floor, where he shot and killed Tracey Sin-Yee Tam, a doctor who was covering a colleague's shift. Bello then died by suicide, witnesses said. Police officials, who had been searching for Bello floor-by-floor, reported his death just before 4:00 p.m.
People shot during the attack include three physicians, two medical students, and one patient. According to the Associated Press, the victims largely suffered injuries to the head, chest, and abdomen.
Bronx-Lebanon medical staff began treating patients immediately in the ED, the Associated Press reports. According to Chilimuri, victims were taken to ORs while the shooting was still ongoing. "Many of our victims had horrendous injuries from assault weapons at a close range, but the team that worked on them kept all of them alive," Chilimuri said.
Hospital staff also moved about 50 patients out of the hospital within 10 minutes, ABC News reports. Meanwhile, doctors and other hospital staff tried to comfort patients and continue to provide care throughout the incident, according to the New York Times.
Schneer said, "Hospital staff throughout the crisis were able to able to operate at an optimal level." He added, "Babies were delivered, surgeries continued, and that was made possible because staff stayed and did what they had to do."
Donna LeePeterkin, a nurse at Bronx-Lebanon, recalled being with a patient when she heard gunshots. "I couldn't abandon my patient," LeePeterkin said. "I was scared and she was scared, but I had to be brave for her ... because that's what we're called to do."
Schneer noted, "Many of our staff risked their own lives to save patients."
Bronx-Lebanon officials at a news conference Monday said one of the injured physicians, who was shot in the neck, was expected to be released that day. Three of the remaining victims are still being treated by Bronx-Lebanon, officials said, and they are all currently stable.
The two other victims were transferred to Mount Sinai. One of those patients, a medical student who suffered a brain injury, has woken up and is in "good spirits," Chilimuri said, adding that the second victim is in stable condition and is expected to have additional surgeries.
According to Schneer, the victims' improvement illustrates how "heroically" staff responded to the situation.
Remembering a lost doctor
Chilimuri recalled Tam as a "young, idealistic physician right from medical school" who was passionate about treating underserved populations."
Shailee Udani, a former coworker, said, "She was always there to help, support, fill in the blanks if you missed something." Udani added, "It was a team effort always with her" (AP/Modern Healthcare, 6/30; Gamble, Becker's Hospital Review, 7/1; AP/CBS News, 7/3; Santora/Alani, New York Times, 6/30; Winsor et al.; ABC News, 7/1; Foderaro, New York Times, 7/1; Maslin Nir, New York Times, 7/30).
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