Nurse fired after online comments about fatality
A nurse's social media comment blaming the victim of a fatal collision between an ambulance and motorcycle ignited a storm of online anger that led to her dismissal Tuesday from Yuma's hospital.
Nurse Angela Gusta commented on YumaSun.com that the deceased, Todd McIntire, was at fault when his motorcycle struck an ambulance making a U-turn Sunday on Highway 95.
Officials with Yuma Regional Medical Center, responding to numerous furious online responses, announced Tuesday via its own social media comment that Gusta's contract with the hospital had been terminated.
“We will not allow the poor judgment of one individual to diminish our heartfelt commitment to providing caring and compassion to this community,” Pat Walz, YRMC president and CEO, stated in that announcement posted on YumaSun.com. “On behalf of Yuma Regional Medical Center, I would like to extend our sincerest sympathy to the McIntire family, for our loss and the senseless lack of compassion shown in the comments to this tragic story.”
McIntire, 32, was struck by a Rural/Metro ambulance driven by Cody Dean Rivera, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The accident occurred on Highway 95, where the ambulance was reportedly making a U-turn after an emergency call was canceled.
DPS officials, who say Rivera may be cited for the accident, reported Tuesday that the fatality remains under investigation.
Gusta's comment appeared Monday evening on an article about the fatality.
“If the ambulance was on a run and had lights or siren on, the cyclist was in the wrong, PERIOD. If he died, aw, but sorry, HIS FAULT,” she wrote. “As an ER nurse who sees people REGULARLY not get out of the way of ambulances, cops firemen...Got no pity for anyone hit by any of the above. Pay attention and get out of the way.”
Gusta's words sparked a flurry of online responses calling for her to apologize to McIntire's family and threatening to report her comment to YRMC.
“This so called ‘nurse' is nothin but a cold hearted ignorant woman,” one commenter posted. “You give nurses EVERYWHERE a bad name. I pray they revoke your license!”
Another YumaSun.com commenter wrote: “you should be reported as an ER nurse for your flippant disregard for a human life. Shame on you and your lack of compassion. You should recheck your profession.”
Despite several attempts, the Yuma Sun was unable to reach Gusta for comment.
YRMC announced Tuesday morning that it had ended its relationship with Gusta, who was a contract nurse employed by another company.
Machele Headington, YRMC's vice president of communications, said this is the first time she can remember that a YRMC employee or contractor was let go because of their use of social media.
“Most times we just let comments go by. Rarely do we comment on postings or even editorials, truly. We feel like people have the right to their opinion,” Headington told the Yuma Sun. “But in this case, they were essentially putting YRMC in a position that would reflect to the (McIntire) family that we don't care or have compassion for the situation. We don't want that to be the case.”
YRMC made its decision about Gusta's employment very public, Headington explained, because the controversy itself was so public.
“This is really a horrific situation for the family. They are already dealing with the loss of their loved one.”
The spokeswoman said she was unaware of YRMC receiving phone calls complaining about Gusta's comment, but she was certainly aware of a strong reaction from hospital employees Tuesday.
“I know our staff is concerned. They work hard every day to care for patients,” Headington said. “We have a mission and commitment to our community and to do that with the fullest amount of compassion. If someone on their own makes a decision outside of here that doesn't align with that (mission), maybe they are not a good fit for our organization. We expect everyone to live our mission.”
According to his funeral notice in the Yuma Sun, McIntire was born in San Diego and worked as a test vehicle operator at Yuma Proving Ground. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army. His memorial service is scheduled for Friday at the YPG chapel.
Darin Fenger can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6860.