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October 12, 2017, Henderson, Nevada – As national media attention surrounding the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas centers on the facts of the tragedy, gun rights, and mental health issues, Dignity Health – St. Rose Dominican Hospitals continues to model compassion as its employees care for those affected by the tragedy.
St. Rose Dominican – sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – includes three hospital campuses, located in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, Nevada, that received and cared for a total of 79 victims needing emergency care, critical care, and surgical services.
Even after the patients are discharged, St. Rose Dominican continues to reach out to them with compassion. St. Rose Dominican announced it will not bill victims for the cost of the medical care they received. Instead, the hospital system will apply for funds from the statewide Victims of Violent Crimes Office. Individuals also have offered to help pay the medical bills.
“Donors came forward through our foundation who are willing to pay the medical bills of the people treated at our hospital,” explained Sister Phyllis Sikora, OP, Nevada Service Area Vice President of Mission Integration for Dignity Health, ministering at the St. Rose de Lima Campus. In addition, a benefactor of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has offered to help.
Now that most of the patients have been discharged, Sister Phyllis and Sister Kathleen McGrail, OP, Vice President of Mission Integration for the Siena Campus, continue to help the staff and their families heal.
“It’s when the media goes away and the funerals are over that hospital staff and families will need us even more to help them live through this experience,” Sister Phyllis said.
Sister Kathleen said she has been in regular contact with hospital employees since the day of the shooting. “The employees responded amazingly well and went into their mode to do what needed to be done,” she explained, adding that they worked three exhausting days before they had a chance to reflect on the effects of the tragedy.
“Almost everyone you meet has a story,” Sister Kathleen added. “They knew someone who was killed or injured. I see an emotional fragility among our staff members and among the chaplains as they absorb this and work with it.”
Sister Phyllis makes daily rounds to talk with the staff. “Sometimes they want a hug, and other times they want to talk. As the shock wears off, I think we’ll see more people in need of some support,” she said.
“What I was most struck by is that so many people in our community have lost their sense of safety,” Sister Phyllis said. She gave the example of a mother who could not attend her son’s football game because of the crowd and her reaction to loud noises, such as people shouting or doors slamming. An ER nurse whose husband was killed is so traumatized that she’s not sure she will be able to return to work because she wasn’t able to save her husband.
In addition to the support Sisters Phyllis and Kathleen and the hospital chaplains are offering, the community has also provided assistance.
“Over the first few days, the Mission Office had at least 50 calls of people wanting to offer food, clothing, free counseling, and from churches offering to provide counseling support,” Sister Kathleen said. “During the first week, vendors were delivering pizzas, sandwiches, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and water for the staff. It was their way to show support. This was what they could do.”
A representative of Dignity Health visited all three campuses the day after the shooting to thank the staff for their efforts. Employees also have access to counseling through the hospital’s Employee Assistance Program.
Sisters Kathleen and Phyllis expressed their appreciation to Sisters and Associates who have reached out to them in concern and care through phone calls, emails, and cards. “It means a lot – it does sustain us,” Sister Kathleen said. “We’re blessed in this community.”
As they continue with the ongoing healing process, Sisters Kathleen and Phyllis ask for continued prayers. “Pray that we can continue to be that compassionate presence to anybody we meet during the day.”
Feature photo: Sisters Phyllis Sikora (left) and Kathleen McGrail (right)