MACHIAS, Maine — Down East Community Hospital administrators have upped their reward from $1,000 to $5,000 for any information that leads to a conviction of whoever was responsible for stealing files recently from the Machias health care facility.
Earlier this month, a Pembroke resident walking along the Pennamaquan River stumbled across plastic bags filled with files that had washed up on the riverbank. She turned those files over to police, who determined that they were stolen from the hospital.
Karen Theriault, a compliance officer at the hospital, conducted an internal investigation of the stolen files but has now turned the investigation entirely over to police.
“This has taken up a large portion of my job for the last few weeks,” Theriault said Friday. “The number one thing now is, we really want to find out who did this and why.”
Maine State Police Trooper Staci Carpenter, the lead investigator, did not return calls for comment on Wednesday or Friday.
The timing of the stolen files coincides with recent turmoil between some hospital staff members and physicians who feel they have been unfairly targeted for dismissal. A community group, the Committee to Save Our Hospital, has formed in response to what it feels has been unfair treatment of doctors and staff at DECH. Its members have picketed outside the hospital on multiple occasions and held a forum last month hosted by a national expert on the phenomenon of “sham peer review.”
Hospital officials have not revealed what types of documents allegedly were stolen or why they might have been targeted. They also haven’t said whether the documents are related to any of the disgruntled employees.
“I hesitate to speculate whether it’s connected,” Theriault said.
Asked how the incident has affected morale at the hospital, Theriault said most people just want to go on with their lives.
“I think initially we were all rather shocked,” Theriault said. “We never expected or anticipated something like this. But what has happened is that everyone has increased their awareness.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Maine State Police at 255-4000 or Theriault at 255-0272.