A few days after two shootings in Oklahoma and Ohio hospitals, an assailant stabbed three people in a California hospital, highlighting “the growing threat of violence that health workers have faced in recent years.”
California hospital in danger of a stab attack
On Friday, a man entered the emergency room in Encino Hospital Medical Center asking to be treated for anxiety before stabbing three staff members, including a doctor and two nurses. Bystanders and other staff were able to barricade the man inside a small room until police officers arrived.
After an hour of standstill, SWAT officers took the assailant into custody and transported him to another hospital to be treated for what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries to his arms. The assailant was later identified as Ashkan Amirsoleymani, 35, and was subsequently charged with attempted murder after being treated.
According to Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton of the Los Angeles Valley Bureau Police Department, Amiresoleymani had a criminal record, including two arrests last year for resisting arrest and beatings against a police officer. However, the reason for his attack in the hospital has not yet been determined.
After the attack, all three victims were transported to Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Medical Center for the Cure. By Saturday, two of the victims had been treated and released, but one victim remained hospitalized in fair but stable condition.
In a statement, Elizabeth Nikels, a spokesperson for First Healthwho runs Encino hospital, said “the hospital management and other staff members responded quickly, exhibiting incredible heroism in ensuring that the assailant was locked up in a room, unable to hurt others.”
“No one else in the hospital was injured. All patients in the emergency room and inpatient units received uninterrupted care, which is an incredible tribute to the dedication and courage of the Encino Hospital team,” Nikels added. “The main goal was to ensure that patients were safe and out of harm’s way throughout the entire incident and that patient care was uninterrupted.”
A growing need to protect health workers from violence
According to Robert Wailes, president of the California Medical Associationthese recent acts of violence in hospitals “underline the growing threat of violence that health workers have faced in recent years.
After the pandemic, the risk of workplace violence has become a significant occupational risk for many healthcare professionals. For example, a study published in Occupational health and safety found that 44.4% of nurses reported experiencing physical abuse and 67.8% of nurses reported experiencing verbal abuse during the pandemic.
“Our people get scolded, punched, hit, scratched, we hear about them every day,” said Matt Bierstack, president of Mercy Health Santa Maria.
In March, American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard Pollack sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking him to support legislation addressing violent behavior against healthcare workers.
“For healthcare professionals, being assaulted or intimidated can no longer be tolerated as ‘part of the job’. This unacceptable situation requires a federal response,” Pollack wrote.
Currently, legislation is underway to address shootings and other violent acts in health care facilities. For example, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would require healthcare employers to implement workplace violence prevention plans.
“We are heartbroken and determined to be in solidarity with our colleagues who have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others,” said Wailes. “We send not only our deepest condolences, but also our outrage that such senseless acts of violence continue to plague our nation.” (Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, 6/4; White et al., NBC Los Angeles, 6/4; Hayes, USA Today, 6/4; Henderson, MedPage today6/6)