Report: CMMC and St. Mary's turned away psychiatric patients, had them arrested

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LEWISTON —  An investigation shows two hospitals in Lewiston turned away psychiatric patients and had them arrested, causing their conditions to worsen in some cases.

The Bangor Daily News reported that hospital staff at Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center deleted patient records, or never recorded the encounters.

Licensing inspectors found that Central Maine Medical Center even instructed police and ambulances not to bring patients with mental health problems because it doesn’t provide services for them.

Those acts were a violation of federal law that requires all hospitals receiving Medicare funding to screen and stabilize anyone who shows up at the emergency room requesting treatment.

In one situation last fall, according to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, a person showed up at CMMC’s emergency room complaining of a brain tumor. The person, who’d been evaluated for a similar complaint three days earlier, became uncooperative during the wait to be seen. Police were called and the person was arrested and removed from the hospital without being evaluated by a health care provider.

CMMC staff deleted the person’s name from the emergency room’s patient registration log.

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The hospitals have since submitted plans detailing how they’ll correct the violations, allowing them to continue receiving Medicare payments.

CMMC, for example, said it will better train employees on the law, create a new process to ensure disruptive patients get evaluated and create a barrier in the electronic registration log so emergency patients’ names can’t be deleted once they’re entered into the system. The hospital also said it would create and install better signs informing patients of their rights.

“CMMC has taken steps to ensure this does not happen again, and we anticipate this will be confirmed by an unannounced return inspection in the near future,” CMMC spokeswoman Kate Carlisle told the Sun Journal in an email. 

An aerial view of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston taken Aug. 9, 2018. (Sun Journal file photo)

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