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County Vows to Stiffen Health Facility Security


After Torres took two hostages in a nearby X-ray room, Lorenzen handled the negotiations. Torres tried to make a point of his complaints against the hospital, telling hostage negotiators, "It's their turn to wait. They've made me wait, I'm going to make them wait."

The walk-in unit where the shooting took place remained closed while the emergency room--one of the nation's busiest--reopened late Monday.

Psychologists arrived at the sprawling facility to help employees cope with the emotional trauma of the shootings.

"There is a mood of fear," said Dr. Gail Anderson, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at County-USC. "Most people are reluctant to go back to work, especially in the emergency room, unless security is improved. What I sensed this morning was anxiety."

The supervisors' efforts to allay those fears may be complicated by county's financial plight. It is facing a budget deficit in the coming fiscal year that could approach $1 billion.

Health department Director Robert Gates said Monday's shooting came after repeated department requests for more security, which were denied because of the county's continuing budget woes.

County officials said there were no funds in the budget to pay for the additional 143 security personnel the health department requested last year.

"We've asked for additional security officers in the hospitals," Gates said. "But the money wasn't there."

Nevertheless, Gates said he hopes to immediately beef up security at the medical center, posting an additional guard in the walk-in clinic where the shooting occurred. Gates said he may also order the installation of bulletproof glass and metal detectors, measures that already have been taken at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's emergency room.

The county's budget difficulties have affected all hospital staffing, including security. Just last month, the Department of Health Services eliminated 138 positions at County-USC, records show, including those of three veteran Safety Police officers.

In the emergency room Tuesday, away from the budget and security debate, life-and-death drama gave way to business as usual.

One of the hostages, 32-year-old Dr. Anne E. Tournay, was already back at work. She worked her regular shift Tuesday, despite the harrowing experience, according to her husband, Ian Parker of Irvine.

Parker said his wife, a British-born medical resident who has spent the past several months at various Los Angeles hospitals on a fellowship in pediatric neurology, was "obviously shaken" by the experience, but "thought it was the best thing to get straight back to work."

Times staff writers Miles Corwin, David Ferrell, Andrea Ford and Shawn Hubler and Times researcher Cecilia Rasmussen contributed to this story.

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