“I think it speaks volumes for the people who work here and their commitment to the care and improvement of human life.”
When the call came in on Aug. 3, 2019, Dr. Stephen Flaherty prepared himself and his staff for the worst.
A gunman had opened fire with an AK-47 in a shopping center in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people and wounding 26 others. Some of the wounded―11, with varying degrees of injuries―were coming to HCA Healthcare’s nearby Del Sol Medical Center, where Dr. Flaherty runs the trauma department. Dr. Flaherty likens the injuries to those he saw when he served in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As a hospital, as a Level II trauma center, we have to be prepared for the unthinkable,” says David Shimp, chief executive officer at Del Sol Medical Center. “In this case, the unthinkable happened, and I’m so grateful for our entire team that we were as prepared for this as we were.”
On that tragic day, the team at Del Sol immediately sprang into action to save lives. Personnel reported to work without being asked, including colleagues from Del Sol’s sister hospital, Las Palmas Medical Center in West El Paso. “Everybody was all hands on deck,” says Annie Garcia, chief nursing officer at Del Sol Medical Center. “From the CEO all the way to our amazing housekeepers, we were here to do one mission—take care of our patients.”
Colleagues from the two hospitals were able to work together seamlessly as a result of the standardized training they had received and shared experiences working across HCA Healthcare facilities. “If we hadn’t done the drills, if we hadn’t participated in mass casualty events, I truly believe that we would not have been able to handle this as effectively as we did,” says Shimp.
As the Del Sol team provided lifesaving care for victims, the emotional impact of this terrible event began to set in. Many team members found comfort and strength in their ability to help and serve their community. “The response from the hospital was magnificent. People just showed up. In the blink of an eye, we had enough people to be able to run seven operating rooms and take care of the operations we needed to do,” says Dr. Flaherty.