AUGUSTA, Maine — A report released Friday by the Maine Legislature’s watchdog group found that Riverview Psychiatric Center hasn’t tracked staff behaviors that could undermine safety at the facility.
It was among minor problems flagged at the hospital, which was decertified by the federal government in 2013 after violations including restraint and use of a stun gun on patients and has been struggling with staffing issues that a retired judge overseeing the state’s mental health system has called potentially dangerous.
But Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew called the issues raised in the report “less than sensational” in a response, saying the department is “adequately addressing” them.
The Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability’s review began in 2014 amid complaints of patient mistreatment at the state-run psychiatric center in Augusta. The probe was narrow, focusing on internal workings, such as incident reporting, performance metrics and staff morale.
The report, released Friday by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, flagged mostly minor issues, including lack of clarity in policies and inconsistent documentation and follow-up on reported problems.
But it cited Riverview for shortcomings in logging staff behaviors that “undermine a culture of safety,” including name-calling, criticism of caregivers or failure to address patient needs. Before the investigation, OPEGA fielded reports of behaviors that caused or escalated patient episodes.
Any staff member who witnesses this behavior is supposed to report it to their supervisor and while policy states that data should be tracked on this, but the watchdog group found that issues typically addressed verbally and not tracked, so it’s hard to know how pervasive they are.
In her response, Mayhew said the hospital “must bolster documentation” of those incidents and has worked with the state’s human resources department and employee unions to improve it.
The report also hit Riverview’s well-publicized staffing problems, which officials have attributed to low salaries compared to other hospitals, high stress and a shortage of qualified applicants. Mayhew told OPEGA the hospital has made progress there, whittling 75 vacancies last year down to 23 in March.
But Riverview is still using mandated overtime — which can keep an employee at work for 16 hours — to fill shifts and the report recommended tracking that use to assess safety risks at the hospital.
However, the hospital hired a employee recruitment and retention specialist in February, and Mayhew said the department has hired a consultant to review the hospital’s staffing model, which she said include recommend steps to monitor and reduce overtime.