MACHIAS, Maine — An elderly woman who walked away from the hospital Thursday while waiting for a ride home from Down East Community Hospital was found quickly by staff, according to spokeswoman Julie Hixson.
Police were notified shortly after 3 p.m. that the woman had left without waiting for the Washington-Hancock County Community Action bus. There were concerns about dementia, and a search was launched immediately.
Hixson said an emergency room nurse who was leaving for home and was unaware that staffers were looking for the woman, saw her standing by the entrance to the hospital driveway on Court Street and offered her a ride home.
“She is home safe and sound,” Hixson said.
Hixson said that staff members did everything appropriately Thursday, including immediately calling police, according to hospital policy. “I am very pleased with how this was handled,” she said.
This is a sensitive issue for DECH, where a disoriented 61-year-old patient walked away in a snowstorm in January 2008 and was found the next day dead in a snowbank.
The nursing supervisor who allowed the man to leave lost his nursing license last month.
Eastport resident Reid Emery, who was heavily drugged, asked to leave the hospital on Jan. 1, 2008, according to the state Attorney General’s Office, which released a statement on its investigation in early June. DECH nurses told the patient that he was too weak to leave and that his family was not able to return to the hospital to provide him with transportation because of the storm, according to the statement.
It was determined that supervisor John Zablotny, despite the circumstances, provided Emery with discharge papers. “The patient signed the discharge form, and Mr. Zablotny pointed the patient to the front exit of the hospital unescorted,” the attorney general’s report stated.
Emery walked out into the storm, which had become a full-blown blizzard, at 8:20 p.m. wearing brown slippers, socks, jeans and a flannel shirt. He was not wearing a jacket. The police were not called for more than an hour.
Emery’s body was found the next day 18 feet away.