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Employee attacked in Duke hospital bathroom

Posted September 21, 2015
Updated September 23, 2015

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— A female employee was attacked in a Duke University Hospital early Sunday, but hospital workers say administrators didn't notify them of the assault until Monday.

The attack occurred at about 6 a.m. Sunday in a visitor bathroom on the ninth floor of the hospital. Workers said the female technician was followed into the bathroom after completing a procedure and was choked and shoved to the ground.

She was bleeding and nearly unable to walk and was eventually loaded onto a stretcher and taken to the emergency room for treatment, witnesses said.

This incident is not being investigated as a sexual assault case either by Duke Police or the Durham Police Department.

Word filtered out to staff throughout Duke Hospital to be on the lookout for a 5-foot-5 man with a dark complexion and dreadlocks who was wearing red shorts and a white tank top.

Employees criticized hospital administrators for not issuing an alert or placing the hospital on lockdown, even as hospital security and Durham police scoured the building for the attacker.

"(We didn't know) what happened or who it was or if they had any information to who we should be looking out for," said a woman who works at Duke Hospital who didn't want to be identified. "If you don't know who you're looking out for, you're just nervous of everybody."

She said she learned of the attack from other workers when she began her Sunday night shift.

"It was kind of a different mood because you didn’t know who knew and who didn’t know," she said.

Security guards would answer worker questions – but only if asked directly – and were told not to offer any additional information to staff or patients, workers said.

A Duke Hospital spokesman said an on-site administrator visited each unit on Sunday morning and alerted nursing leadership of the attack, but workers said they were never notified. He declined to comment on why an alert wasn't issued or patients notified.

Hospital President Keven Sowers sent a memo to hospital administrators at 7 p.m. Sunday – about 13 hours after the attack – which characterized the incident as an employee "being shoved to the ground" and not as a sex assault.

"We are cooperating with the police as we continue our investigation. Security plans are in place," Sowers said in the four-sentence memo.

Hospital workers said they didn't receive a copy of that memo until Monday morning.

"I’m just not sure why they wouldn’t tell employees that an employee was attacked because a lot of us walk around the hospital all night by yourself," the woman who works at Duke Hospital said.

The attacker remains at large.


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  • Mick Flynn Sep 25, 2015
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    Not investigated as sexual assault? Seriously?

  • Abby Moser Sep 22, 2015
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    According to patient relations(I called this afternoon to express concern for the safety of my family members and friends who were working at Duke two floors down during and after this attack and were never notified). Duke, of course, will not admit to any mishandling, and the rep I spoke to flat out lied and told me that staff had been immediately notified. Duke is being visited next week in hope of receiving a Baldrige Hospital award, and Duke is clearly sending the message that maintaining their public face is far more important than the safety of the employees who work so hard to make Duke eligible for awards in the first place.

  • John McCray Sep 22, 2015
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    My thoughts and prayers are with this woman during this horrific ordeal. Also with the staff who must continue doing their job knowing that this has happened in their workplace.

  • K Hope Capps Sep 22, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Cape Fear stopped people at the entrances and took ID to issue visitor passes for everyone.

  • Anne Havisham Sep 22, 2015
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    It is my hope that the survivor of this attack gets lots of support from her friends, family, colleagues, and allies.

    It sure sounds as if her workplace was asleep at the wheel.

  • Anne Havisham Sep 22, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    People of some ethnic groups can be darker-skinned than some people who identify as African American.

  • Djofraleigh Anderson Sep 22, 2015
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    Duke University administrators have no backbone when it comes to being PC so why would Duke's hospital be any different. They don't want bad sounding publicity. Well, they sound weak and uncaring now.

  • Sonja Yagel Sep 22, 2015
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    Why would Duke compromise the safety of their workers after one was brutally attacked by not alerting them to a dangerous situation? Duke is known for its secrecy especially of adverse happenings. If someone had a gun it would be an immediate lock-down situation, why not for a rapist?

  • Sarcoi Dosis Sep 22, 2015
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    I don't feel safe in Hospitals. I've been saying for years that they are "Soft Targets". Anyone can go in, or out, at any time, carrying whatever they please.
    The only area that seems to have any restricted access is the Emergency room. Metal detectors are use at the ER / ED entry, but that doesn't prevent someone from entering at one of the many other entrances.
    I was impressed when Wake Med stopped me at the ED entrance and stored my Pocket Knife until I left. Still, what might prevent someone from entering at the main entrance, armed to the teeth?

  • K Hope Capps Sep 22, 2015
    user avatar

    That poor woman. You should expect to feel safe in a hospital. They should have sent a notice out immediately. I get not wanting to cause a panic, but they downplayed the attack too much and put people at risk. And if they'd gotten a description out immediately, they might have caught that guy.