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Long Beach firefighters photographed dying man

August 13, 2010 |  6:20 pm

Long Beach firefighters photographed a dying man they had taken to the emergency room for treatment, a department spokesman said Friday.

The Times previously reported that staffers at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach photographed stabbing victim William Wells after he was brought to the emergency room April 9 and posted the photo on Facebook.

Wells was taken to the emergency room by a Long Beach fire captain, two firefighters and two firefighter paramedics, some of whom photographed him, said department spokesman Steve Yamamoto.

Yamamoto would not say how many of the firefighters photographed Wells, how they photographed him or whether they were disciplined, saying it was a confidential personnel matter.

“The Fire Department has no knowledge of any photographs being posted on Facebook or any other social network websites,” he said, adding that the department already bars firefighters from photographing patients, so no new guidelines were created after the incident.

Wells, 60, had been attacked by a fellow resident at the Crofton Manor Inn convalescent home in Long Beach. He was stabbed 16 times and his neck was slit, according to the autopsy report. Long Beach police said Wells’ roommate, Gilbert Baca, 82, has been charged with murder.

St. Mary spokeswoman Daa'iyah Jordan has confirmed that hospital staffers posted a photograph of a patient online, but would not identify the staffers or patient, or say where the photo was posted. She said hospital officials notified the patient's family and California Department of Public Health regulators.

Four staff members were fired and three disciplined in connection with the incident, she said. At least two nurses were involved but none was fired, a union spokesman said.

The public health department is investigating the incident, along with eight additional potential breaches of patient information at the hospital this year and three last year, spokesman Ralph Montano said Friday.

A St. Mary employee who asked not to be identified for fear of being fired said a supervisor showed her the photograph on her cellphone. She said the photo was dark, but she could clearly see Wells’ bloody face and neck.

“It was gruesome,” she said. “I just looked at it and turned away.”

That supervisor and other staff who exchanged the photo on e-mail were still working at the hospital, she said.

Wells’ family could not be reached for comment and a St. Mary spokesman did not return phone calls Friday.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske