Wednesday, September 08, 2004


"A doctor who left a loaded handgun in an employee's bathroom at Salem Hospital's emergency room has been suspended with pay, while the hospital and the state Board of Registration in Medicine investigate the incident, his attorney said. In order to let both institutions complete their inquiries, Dr. Richard L. Pinegar has agreed not to practice medicine until Sept. 15, Boston attorney Paul Cirel said.

Pinegar, working an overnight shift at the hospital, left the gun inside the bathroom early Monday when he stepped out to answer a page from another doctor, Cirel said. Another staffer found the gun and alerted hospital security, which in turn contacted Salem police, his lawyer said.

Pinegar, who has a valid license to carry a firearm, immediately acknowledged the .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver was his and took possession of it, Cirel said. When the police arrived, Pinegar showed the officers the gun and was allowed to keep it. "He grew up in Iowa around guns. He's a member of a sportsmen's club, and he keeps his gun locked in a gun safe," Cirel said. "He also works crazy hours in a hospital ER and has to find his car in the parking lot at night. It's his decision, and he's done it by following the law."

Cirel said Pinegar was not aware the hospital had an anti-gun policy. "If they don't want him to bring this (gun) to work, then he won't," Cirel said.

In a statement that did not name Pinegar, the hospital, part of the North Shore Medical Center, said, "North Shore Medical Center is deeply committed to the safety of its patients and employees. We take this incident very seriously. Our policy clearly prohibits possession of firearms or other weapons" on hospital grounds".

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