May 18, 2013

Understaffed, undersized and under siege: Riverview hospital struggles with safety

'We have major concerns about health and safety at Riverview, and we're trying to address them long-term,' union representative says

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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This aerial photo, taken on April 30, shows The Riverview Psychiatric Center on banks of Kennbec River in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Perry said other concerns beyond safety make it difficult to retain and recruit, pointing to a state budget that has no wage increases or additional money for staff training.

McEwen said she believes staff levels at Riverview are sufficient. There are 270 staff members for 92 patients in the main hospital.

"I think we're very richly staffed with a good variety of disciplines," she said.

Even so, the superintendent said recruiting registered nurses for the hospital can be challenging. Many choose better paying jobs at nearby MaineGeneral Medical Center and the Maine VA Healthcare Systems-Togus hospital, both in Augusta.

One person who questions whether Riverview has enough staff is long-time patient Beauchene, who has been in the state hospital or in prison since 1972. He escaped twice from Riverview's predecessor, AMHI, and spent 15 years in prison for rapes committed in New York after his second escape. He was returned to the hospital in 1998 and is pretty sure he's never going to get out.

In a recent phone interview from Riverview, Beauchene said he was another victim of Murphy.

"He sucker-punched me one day and knocked my glasses off," Beauchene said. "He hit me one time and then he sat down."

Beauchene said patients have to pitch in because staffing at Riverview to help calm volatile situations isn't adequate.

"It is my belief if female staff were attacked, at least half the clients would help her. We have good staff here. In our minds, males can take care of themselves, but we would help," he said.

Perry, the union rep, said she's encouraged by the hospital administration's response to Murphy's attack in March.

"Working together as a team we can fix what is broken," she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Mark Murphy

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