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University Hospital nurse placed on paid administrative leave

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Posted at 11:20 PM, Apr 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-23 01:20:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A University of Utah nurse has been put on paid administrative leave for making racial comments online against the Tongan community.

FOX 13 News wants to warn readers, the comment you’re about to read is extremely offensive.

Hospital officials confronted nurse Todd Shrum Tuesday in the heart catheter lab where he works where he admitted posting the phrase "Tongan trash ... kill them all" on social media.

Shrum said his comment was a knee-jerk reaction after a Tongan gang member was shot and killed at the federal courthouse Monday.

"The only thing I can realize is that I used a very poor choice of words. I shouldn't have said that and that people would infer I was talking about the entire Tongan race. I was talking about the gang members only,” Shrum said. “I sincerely, sincerely apologize."

After Shrum, a former Marine, now a University Hospital nurse, posted the comment, someone in the community grabbed a snapshot of it and posted it on University of Utah Healthcare's Facebook page.

The hospital suspended Shrum Tuesday.

"I can tell you as a university we take the trust that our patients place in us very seriously and when we have an employee who makes disparaging, violent comments our first reaction is to do the right thing for the patients," said hospital spokesman Chris Nelson.

"I work with Tongans, I take care of Tongans. I find them to be very family oriented, lovely people. I never meant for you guys to construe my thoughts as an indictment of the whole race," Shrum said.

Shrum said he's received a handful of death threats. Hospital officials say they're still investigating the remarks and will give the nurse his due process but more than 100 people have complained to the hospital and say Shrum should be fired.

FOX 13 News asked Shrum if he was concerned he might lose his job over this.

“Yes sir I am,” Shrum said.

FOX 13 News asked the nurse if he could be out of job by the end of the week.

“Yes sir, I could,” Shrum added.

FOX 13 News asked Shrum if he thought he should be fired over this.
“I don't know, I can't answer that," Shrum said.

Hospital officials are still investigating and say Shrum has made other questionable racial remarks online, which Shrum denies.

FOX 13 News asked hospital officials, as offensive as the comment was, does Shrum have the right under free speech?

Hospital officials say, possibly, but they’re focus is on the well-being of patients and Shrum’s role in health care coupled with the violent nature of his comment is what has officials concerned.

Shrum has been with the hospital since May of 2009. Hospital officials could decide by the end of the week whether Shrum keeps his job.