Medical center addresses patient, family and staff safety

Posted Nov. 07, 2011, at 8:14 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — On Oct. 27, a violent-patient incident occurred in the Special Care Unit at Pen Bay Medical Center. The incident mirrors local and national trends toward more violence in hospitals, often caused by patients with bath salts poisoning. Pen Bay is now treating an average of three to four patients a week with bath salts poisoning, according to Roy Hitchings, president and CEO of Pen Bay Healthcare.

“We have always taken the safety of our patients, family and staff very seriously; however, we must do more,” said Hitchings. “Pen Bay employees, physicians, administration and law enforcement representatives from our community have worked with the hospital’s Workforce Violence Prevention Task Force to enact the policy and protocol changes to further ensure the safety of patients, families, visitors and staff at Pen Bay Medical Center.”

Law enforcement will be present at Pen Bay Medical Center seven days a week for at least the next 30 days while the hospital administration works on longer-term solutions, Hitchings said. Pen Bay is working with the Rockport Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies to provide on-site police support.

The medical and nursing staff have enhanced and standardized treatment for patients who present with bath salts poisoning.

Pen Bay Medical Center administration members are working with their counterparts at other Maine hospitals to pursue the possibility of a regional approach to treating patients with bath salts poisoning.

After-hours patient visitor policies have been revised. The revised policy, now in effect, includes more secure after-hours access and a check-in process for those visiting the facility. Visitors to Pen Bay Medical Center may enter only through the walk-in entrance at the Emergency Department after 8 p.m. All other entrances will be locked. Patient families and visitors will be asked to sign in and receive a visitor pass before being escorted to the patient they are visiting. Visitors are asked to remain in the patient care area that they are visiting for the duration of their stay. A Pen Bay staff member will escort after-hours visitors out of the building when they are ready to leave.

“We believe that the steps we have taken will improve security and safety for patients, the community and our staff at Pen Bay Medical Center. This is an important step in dealing with a very serious communitywide issue. We will continue to work with schools, law enforcement and others for longer-range solutions to the safety issues we have been presented with — largely due to the use of bath salts in our community,” said Hitchings.

For more information, visit http://www.pbmc.org.

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