CPH: No warning signs: Hospital officials say shooting was not predictable

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Central Peninsula Hospital administrators saw no warnings that could have predicted the violence that occurred on Nov. 26, when a former employee shot two supervisors, one fatally, a day after being fired, hospital officials said Friday.

Around Oct. 9, Kim Lebrell contacted CPH's director of behavioral health and told her Joseph Marchetti was using a hospital-issued cell phone to text her adult daughter, said CPH Chief Executive Officer Ryan Smith at a press conference Friday.

Lebrell's daughter sent 23 of those texts to the director of behavioral health. On Oct. 14, the human resources department was notified, Smith said. Smith declined to release the names of hospital staff who reviewed the text messages, but identified them as the vice president of human resources and the director of behavioral health.

After Lebrell alerted the hospital of the text messages, hospital officials sent an e-mail to her saying the hospital could not release any confidential employee information on Marchetti, Smith said.

The hospital also told Lebrell, "When we are preparing to discuss this topic, the fact that Mr. Marchetti had used hospital equipment to send text messages to her daughter, if we were going to discuss this with the employee, then we would let them know," Smith said. "In other words, we wouldn't discuss it with the employee without the external source knowing that we were going to talk to the employee about that."

On Oct. 16, the director of behavioral health wrote an evaluation e-mail, regarding the text messages.

"The text messages that Mr. Marchetti sent had nothing to do with the hospital or our employees," Smith said.

However, Smith said that he has never read the content of the 23 text messages in question.

"The only person who's actually reviewed those 23 text messages in our organization is the director of behavioral health," Smith said. "I've never seen them. We're basically relying on the opinion of the director of behavioral health. She would have the ability to make that assessment being a clinical psychologist.

"Her assessment of the text messages were that all in all they were very manipulative," Smith said.

"Very manipulative, that's as strong as it got," said Matt Dammeyer, CPH administration assistant administrator.

"We really don't know the nature of the manipulative behaviors that she's assessed," Smith said.

Smith said in the texts Marchetti mentioned Lebrell's daughter's boyfriend. He described the messages as "personal in nature" and "outside of the scope of the hospital."

"Her personal opinion was that, 'We are dealing with someone that could be very dangerous,'" Smith said.

After the behavioral health director's evaluation, Dammeyer had the vice president of human resources investigate the messages. He said he asked what was the worst thing in the messages was, if any laws were broken and if there were any threats of physical violence.

"There were no acts or threats of physical violence in those text messages but there was some manipulative language," Dammeyer said.

Like Smith, Dammeyer said he did not see the texts Marchetti sent to Lebrell's daughter.

"I did not see the content but I have a very good idea of the nature of the content in the text messages, based on what the director of behavioral health shared, and was very, very comfortable with the fact that there was no identifiable target and there was no threat of violence," Dammeyer said.

"We feel confident in the way that we handled that information internally, that we took it seriously and we evaluated that information ... and we did not think that there were any other actions that we needed to take relative to that information," Smith said.

"To be able to contact law enforcement obviously you need some substance," Dammeyer said. "You need to have a threat, you need to have something. We did not have that."

Dammeyer said the content of the messages "fell way below the threshold of taking action."

The 23 texts were sent within a seven-minute time period. Most of the messages were originated by Marchetti, but Lebrell's daughter did respond, Smith said. Lebrell's daughter selected the 23 messages to send to hospital officials, but Marchetti did send others that were not read by CPH.

"I think it's logical to expect if you're coming with a complaint, you're going to come with the most egregious material that exists," Dammeyer said.

Smith said the hospital has 56 cell phones currently issued to its employees and that there is no policy against sending text messages. Hospital issued cell phones can be used for both hospital and/or personal business, Smith said.

The hospital hired attorney Paul Davis to conduct its internal investigation. Smith said Davis concluded that Marchetti's process of termination was "appropriately followed in substance and in spirit" and that "there was no single or cumulative warnings which would have reasonably predicted Marchetti's acts of violence.

"Mr. Marchetti didn't really exhibit any anger or violent behaviors towards being terminated from the hospital," Smith said.

The hospital is currently discussing adding a second security guard, Smith said. The guards will remain unarmed. Entrance to the hospital, too, is being discussed. Smith said CPH is looking into changing from key entrance to swiping in with a badge at many of its doors.

Currently, the doors are a 50/50 split between key and badge entrance, Smith said.

One of the victims of the Nov. 26 shooting, Margaret Stroup, director of imaging at CPH, was moved from Providence Medical Center in Anchorage to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Tuesday. She is currently in the intensive care unit. Future surgeries are planned.

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.

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