Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Children Caught in Violence Strain Hospitals Gang-Related Injuries Prompt Concern

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Children Caught in Violence Strain Hospitals Gang-Related Injuries Prompt Concern

Article excerpt

They arrive in hospital emergency rooms with sickening frequency: children with gunshot and stab wounds.

As more children are caught up in street violence, children's hospitals in the area are changing their ways to protect young patients and employees.

Trauma doctors and nurses also are struggling with a broader issue: Should they treat violent teen-agers as children or adults?

"This is a significant issue that has clearly escalated over the last five or six years," said Dr. Robert "Bo" Kennedy, associate medical director of the emergency department at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "Our assumption is that any gunshot wound or inflicted trauma patient is gang-related. We can never be sure."

Violence in St. Louis children's hospitals is relatively mild compared with other cities. For example, at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, gang members were found roaming the halls, looking to finish off injured rivals. Nothing like that has happened here, hospitals say.

But the fear of violence within hospital walls has become so pervasive that the Hospital Association of Metropolitan St. Louis has organized a task force to study it. The task force will issue guidelines to its 41 members in Missouri and Illinois for dealing with violence. In addition, the task force will develop a way to track violent incidents at hospitals.

But practices already are changing. St. Louis Children's Hospital has beefed up its security measures in the past year, as has Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. Both hospitals have stopped short of installing metal detectors, saying that they are not necessary and that their presence would make families feel less secure than they actually are. Eighty-four children were admitted to both hospitals last year for gunshot wounds.

"We have seen our gunshot wounds increase 100 percent a year for the last three years," said nurse Diana G. Fendya, trauma coordinator at Cardinal Glennon. …

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