Hibbing hospital patient abused by staff member during mental health crisis

An incident report stated the staff member grabbed the patient by the throat, slammed her onto the bed and swore at her. The staff member is no longer an employee at Fairview Range University Medical Center-Mesabi.

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HIBBING — A complaint of abuse at Fairview University Medical Center-Mesabi was substantiated by the Minnesota Department of Health, according to an investigation report from the Office of Health Facility Complaints. A staff member was found responsible for maltreatment of a vulnerable adult in November.

According to the report, a patient receiving medication during a mental health emergency was assisted by several staff members. As the staff were leaving the room, the patient was sitting on the bed and told one staff member, the alleged perpetrator, that he was "just a wanna be cop."

In response, the staff member grabbed the patient by the throat, threw her down on the bed and said, "Show some f------ respect." The hospital's incident report cited two other attending staff who witnessed the events.

According to the report, the patient was diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders and frequently experienced bouts of anger, impulse control and agitation. The patient was prescribed medication to stabilize her symptoms, but frequently refused the medication. If she refused, nursing, social work and security staff entered her room as a group to ensure she took the medication. The report did not state which field the staff member who abused her worked in.

After the incident, the patient had three sets of X-rays taken, including of her cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, and was prescribed a pain relief medication. The hospital's report stated a physician attempted to engage with the patient regarding any psychological harm caused by the incident, but the patient refused and wanted to be left alone and sleep. No report of a physical assessment immediately following the incident was recorded in the patient's medical records, according to the investigation report.


The alleged perpetrator, who was found responsible for abuse by the Office of Health Facility Complaints, no longer works at Fairview University Medical Center-Mesabi. Investigators made multiple attempts to interview the staff member, including a subpoena, but they received no response. Law enforcement was also contacted by investigators.

Facility management provided staff with verbal education about reporting abuse and neglect. Fairview University Medical Center did receive a correction order from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Fairview Health Services released the following statement about the incident:

"Every patient and employee deserves to feel safe and respected while in our hospital. While we are not able to talk about private patient information, we assure you that Fairview Range remains committed to protecting the welfare of everyone we serve.

"Upon learning of this incident, staff immediately filed a report with the Minnesota Department of Health, and conducted a robust internal investigation, including reinforcing our standards of care through additional staff training. The employee was terminated. We remain committed to protecting the health and safety of every patient we serve, and to providing employees the training and support they need to deliver exceptional care."

The investigation, which substantiated abuse, was completed on April 27 and released online to the public June 28.

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The clinic, with offices in Duluth and Cloquet, offers therapy, psychiatry, substance use disorder treatment, treatment-resistant depression programming, walk-in appointment openings and other services.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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