Employee attacked in Duke hospital bathroom
Posted September 21, 2015
Updated September 23, 2015
Durham, N.C. — 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.