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State mental hospital cited for escaped patient

Posted April 1, 2011

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— Federal regulators plan to cite Cherry Hospital after a patient at the state psychiatric facility escaped three weeks ago, state officials said Friday.

The unidentified patient escaped March 12, and police returned the patient to the Goldsboro hospital 10 days later, according to Mark Van Sciver, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Cherry Hospital administrators immediately reviewed procedures and put new policies and training in place, Van Sciver said.

Officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services inspected the hospital this week and requested additional policies and training, he said. The regulators also notified hospital officials that they would recommend a finding of "immediate jeopardy" for the facility.

The finding indicates that a problem exists at the hospital that regulators feel compromises patient health or safety.

Hospital officials submitted their initial corrective actions to regulators, who accepted it, Van Sciver said. Once hospital administrators receive the written report, they will submit their final plan of action, he said.

Cherry Hospital has been plagued in recent years by charges of patient abuse and questionable deaths.

In 2008, federal regulators revoked the hospital's certification, costing it an estimated $8 million to $10 million in federal funding.

The federal agency reacted after the death of Steven Sabock, a 50-year-old patient who choked on his medication, hit his head and was left sitting in a chair for 22 hours, unattended and without food. Surveillance video shows employees playing cards and watching TV a few feet from the dying patient.

In the wake of Sabock's death, an entire ward was shut down, the hospital's director resigned, and consultants were hired to retrain staff. State officials instituted a zero-tolerance policy toward employees found to have abused or neglected patients.

The hospital nearly lost federal funding again last year after an incident in which a mental health technician dragged a 22-year-old patient and covered his face with a pillow to keep him from spitting while staff tried to restrain him.

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  • sorry Apr 1, 2011

    I was at Dix for 6 weeks they saved my life, They were very nice to me the doctors were very very nice the staff was just nice and now Dix is gone so sad,
    I will never forget what they did for me

  • ecirr Apr 1, 2011

    They need to investigate how many people are suffering from asbestos related illnesses or deaths due to Cherry Hospital's toxic buildings.

  • slayerhil Apr 1, 2011

    "Sometimes I think with all the in-breds and etc... running loose around the state,I'd be ashamed to tell anybody I was from NC. LOL!"
    I think you could say that about the majority of other states in this country, as well. Every state has their share of 'weirdos.' Just be proud to be an American and leave it at that.

  • Tizu Apr 1, 2011

    Well, building the New Cherry Hospital will look better, but it won't prevent stuff like this if they don't do some house cleaning.

  • pennyhawkins1966 Apr 1, 2011

    Sometimes I think with all the in-breds and etc... running loose around the state,I'd be ashamed to tell anybody I was from NC. LOL!

  • u stand corrected Apr 1, 2011

    Agree with all.

  • mochabrown Apr 1, 2011

    Need to clean house from top to bottom.....This time include top staff in the administrative building, executives, etc. Somebody knew something and remain "silence" Silence may be golden, but not in this incident.

  • cinbu Apr 1, 2011

    I will never forget the first time I saw conditions at Cherry Hospital. This state ought to be ashamed and held accountable for that human dumping ground. I thought conditions like that were abolished years ago. The state of care for the mentally ill in North Carolina is criminal. Every one of us is responsible, and we need to take much better care of our own people. Charity begins at home, folks.

  • FragmentFour Apr 1, 2011

    This place is really hard to believe - it doesn't seem to quite do anything right. A complete flush of all administrative and medical officers plus a through cleaning of staff needs to be undertaken before another week goes by.