ROCKPORT, Maine — After dealing with an influx of patients needing emergency medical care while under the influence of the synthetic drug bath salts, Pen Bay Medical Center has arranged to transfer the potentially dangerous cases to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
The move could save the hospital more than $30,000 a month by eliminating some security precautions.
Bath salts have been found to make users paranoid and violent. In one instance in late October, the small Rockport hospital had $30,000 in damage after a teenager on bath salts went on a rampage inside the special care unit at the hospital.
After that incident, the hospital began taking additional security measures to handle similar patients. Pen Bay arranged at a cost of about $33,000 a month to have a local police officer at the hospital at all times. The police presence likely will be maintained at the hospital until January, according to Megan Williams, Pen Bay Medical Center’s spokesperson. Williams added, however, that the security cost was not sustainable.
Instead, the hospital has reached an agreement with EMMC to transfer Rockport patients high on bath salts to Bangor. EMMC is much larger and has more resources to deal with these situations, Williams said in a press release issued Friday.
It’s not a formal, written type of agreement, according to EMMC. No money will change hands.
If any person is severely hurt or needs care that the 100-or-so-bed Rockport hospital can’t provide, EMMC will take that patient. The bath salts patient agreement is consistent with that philosophy, according to Jim Raczek, vice president and chief medical officer of EMMC. He said EMMC would do this for any hospital in Greater Bangor.
It’s unclear what impact, if any, the transfers will have on the Bangor emergency room, Raczek said.
Bangor is a bit of a haul. It will take an hour and a half to transport people from Pen Bay to EMMC. If the bath salts patient’s condition is severe enough, though, the trip will be worth it. A bath salts high can last “a significant number of hours,” Raczek said.
According to Raczek, bath salts can cause all sorts of damage to someone’s health. During a drug high, people can experience metabolic, pulmonary and circulatory system disfunction.
“When patients inject bath salts they need to be in a safe environment, often which a jail cannot provide,” Raczek said. “Anything that would require medical care could happen to them. They need to be monitored in case those things happen so we can intervene.”
People high on bath salts can harm themselves or others or cause a lot of damage. Hospitals can sedate the drug users so they can’t hurt anyone or wreak as much havoc.