The entrance to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa's neonatal intensive care unit at Camp Foster is pictured Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

The entrance to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa's neonatal intensive care unit at Camp Foster is pictured Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A service member working with infants in intensive care was removed from her post at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa after making online threats to children she worked with, according to a spokeswoman for the Defense Health Agency.

The service member’s post on Snapchat, since deleted, was shared as a screenshot Tuesday on the Okinawa Rants and Venting Facebook group. Under the screen name “Rae,” the service member said she had to hide at work because she was about to throw a baby “like a damn football,” according to the post.

Rae also said the babies were “acting like they want to meet Jesus,” despite her having given them “so much sugar water that they could be type 2 diabetics.”

More than 200 commenters reacted with alarm to the screenshot.

“We sincerely apologize for this inappropriate post,” Whitney Trimble, a spokeswoman for Defense Health Agency Region Indo-Pacific, told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday. “The service member has been removed from patient care pending a full investigation, and our staff remains dedicated to providing world-class care for every patient.”

The service member could not be reached for comment. Marine Corps Installations Pacific did not immediately respond to requests Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment.

Although the screenshot appeared Tuesday on Facebook, the time and date of the original Snapchat post was not clear.

An apology posted Tuesday to the Okinawa Rants and Venting page by someone claiming to be the service member said the outburst was “dark humor” and the result of three 12-hour shifts the previous weekend. The post said the woman was ashamed of those thoughts but would never harm a child.

“Some of us are reaching a breaking point,” the post said.

Staffing shortages are a concern in the unit, said Kelly Pretorius, a pediatric nurse practitioner and a member of Japan Civilian Medical Advocacy, a Facebook group with more than 1,400 followers that acts as a source of information and advocacy for DOD civilians living in Japan.

“Health worker burnout is a real and serious consequence of staffing shortages,” she said by email Tuesday.

Japan Civilian Medical Advocacy “was contacted about the NICU incident, was asked to help bring attention to this situation and to ensure an appropriate investigation occurs,” Pretorius said. “The members of our volunteer organization continue to work daily to improve medical care for both our active duty and civilian populations in Japan.”

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Grafenwoehr, Germany, for Stars and Stripes since 2024. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Okinawa, Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the news organization. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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