PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found a security guard and a nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland, allegedly struck patients acting violently. The agency also found the hospital failed to protect the patients from physical abuse.

The report details a security officer who allegedly struck a potentially self-harming patient with schizoaffective disorder, a bipolar type diagnosis, multiple times in the face while trying to restrain the patient. A nurse witnessed the incident and reported it. The investigation revealed the security officer was allowed to continue to work for six hours before being placed on leave. The report says, “The State Agency was made aware that Security Officer #1 has been criminally charged for assault.”

In July 2019, a nurse allegedly punched an 83-year-old patient with dementia in the ribs. According to the report, the patient exhibited agitation and aggression towards staff while they were trying to administer medications. The patient struck the nurse in the chin and in response the nurse yelled, “You f*****” and punched the patient in the right rib area.

The report said although there was a witness to the incident, they did not prevent the nurse from re-entering the patient’s room unaccompanied shortly after, which, “could have placed the patient at greater risk of further assaults,” the report says.

The nurse was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a dependent person, a class C felony in Maine.

In a statement Maine Medical Center said, “Maine Medical Center has no tolerance for any instance of abuse, neglect or exploitation against patients and staff. The employees who were the focus of these complaints in 2019 are no longer working at Maine Medical Center.”

Following the complaint survey in 2019, there has been enhanced training for care team members in de-escalation techniques, as well as proper reporting standards. The action plan was approved by the State Agency.

“Health care institutions across the country, including Maine Medical Center, are facing an epidemic of violence against health care staff. While strong policies, training, support systems and proper reporting are critical for the protection of patients and staff alike, public awareness of this ongoing trend is critical to ensuring health care institutions continue to be a place of healing,” the statement said.