Hospitals Prepare for Worst After Mehserle Sentencing

Vandana Chand

On July 8, when a Los Angeles jury found Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of Bay Area resident Oscar Grant, 20, citizens, city employees and local hospitals prepared for a worst case scenario that never came.
Still, with Mehserle’s sentencing just two weeks away, two local trauma centers are ready to handle a surge of patients and enact emergency lockdown procedures should rioting break out again.
Representatives from both Eden Hospital in Castro Valley and Highland Hospital in Oakland are prepared to double or even triple staff on the day of Mehserle sentencing.
While many local emergency room doctors and hospital executives say they were pleasantly surprised by the lack of violence that occurred after the verdict was ready on July 8, they remain prepared for additional riots and potential violence on August 6, when Mehserle is sentenced.
“The importance of being prepared is so that everyone remains safe and secure. If we have a rush of patients [who] need immediate medical attention, we can supply them with it,” says Chad Howard-Simon, the security and safety manager at Eden Hospital. Howard-Simon, who has been with the hospital seven years, says the hospital is prepared for whatever happens.
For Dr. Alison Cook, a surgeon at Eden hospital who was on call the night the verdict came in, all of the preparations and lockdown procedures were a bit surprising. Cook says she was regularly notified about plans and preparations.
“They sent out faxes saying there may be problems. [They] had the doors locked and unless you were a doctor or staff you had to enter from the ER side so security could check you first,” she says.
Eden Medical Hopistal doubled their staff of nurses and volunteers on July 8, the night Mehersely verdict was read in Los Angeles. An additional 20 doctors were placed on call. Hospital officials say similar plans will be in place on August 6, when Mehserle is sentenced. Cook says she believes that if Mehserle receives a light sentence, more riots may break out.
George Bischalaney, the chief executive officer and president of Eden Hospital sent a fax to Cook and other doctors preparing them for a surge patients in the emergency departments. Cook notes that reaction to the verdict “could have been more violent,” so the hospital remains prepared for the worst.
Rodney Christian-Gilmore, supervising operator at Highland Hospital, says the hospital explained they set up a “code triage external,” meaning they anticipated a high volume of patients in the emergency room, so staff levels were tripled.
“We had about eight or nine operators working that night, since operators are the first line of communication we had to have every line open and ready,” he says.
Like Cook at Eden hospital, the staff at Highland expected worse and many said they were surprised by the outcome of the riots.
“I expected our phone lines to become busy and our ER to become crowded, but to my surprise they didn’t, I guess you never know how society is going to react,” Christian-Gilmore says.
Despite the relatively non-violent reaction to the verdict, Highland Hospital will also have the same emergency system and extra staff available when Mehserle is sentenced in two weeks.