It just keeps happening. Only last month, gunshots rang out in Chicago's Mercy Hospital. A young police officer moving to protect civilians died. A dedicated emergency room physician died, as did a pharmacy resident. The lives of three people devoted to others were cut short in another senseless hail of bullets.
Since 2015, there have been hospital shootings at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.; Cincinnati Medical Center; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.; Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York City,;Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Fla.; and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Hospitals are places of refuge and healing. News of gunfire in hospitals is heartbreaking to those of us who work in healthcare. From doctors and nurses to laundry, cafeteria and office workers, everyone at Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare is deeply affected by these tragic incidents.
For me, the news from Chicago was personal. I worked at Mercy Hospital on Chicago's South Side for eight years. It is committed to serving that neighborhood's most vulnerable residents. Each Thanksgiving, employees from the CEO to front-line staff would distribute Thanksgiving dinner baskets to the homes of clinic patients. My two young daughters used to go with me. It exemplified the soul of that hospital—a place that shaped me as a person and as a leader.
Of course, our first response to these incidents has been to protect our patients, families and staff. Over the last decade, we have tightened security in and around our facilities, and our staff participates in active-shooter training and drills. We work closely with local police. Other hospitals have taken similar measures. We are committed to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our patients and families and our staff. But we must do more to help prevent gun violence in general.
A 2015 study found that the gun-homicide rate in the U.S. is 25.2 times that of other developed countries and nearly 50 times higher in the 15- to 24-year-old age group. Gun violence is certainly a public health issue.
It's been suggested that doctors and hospitals have no business weighing in on solutions to gun violence. And yet, hospitals across America rescue gunshot victims every day. And, all too often, that violence comes into the hospital, threatening not just patients and families, but the very people working to save lives.
At Hartford HealthCare, we have worked with police and community partners in our annual gun buy-back program, which has taken firearms off the street. We all need to do what we can to reduce the needless toll of death and injury from guns so that the phrase, "another mass shooting" is no longer a headline in America.