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Feds reviewing eye-gouging incident at Eleanor Slater Hospital

Target 12

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Federal regulators are reviewing a recent incident involving an Eleanor Slater Hospital patient who partially removed their own eye with a spoon, Target 12 has learned.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirmed Wednesday it is reviewing the incident, which happened last month inside the hospital’s Benton facility in Cranston. The review was also confirmed by the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees Eleanor Slater.

“There will be a five-day CMS survey,” BHDDH spokesperson Randy Edgar said.

As Target 12 first reported last month, the patient was inside their room when they used the spoon to hurt themselves, and the R.I. Department of Health subsequently launched its own investigation into the issue before CMS was notified.

Target 12 has since confirmed the state’s investigation was focused on whether staff followed policies related to tracking utensils used during mealtimes, and three employees were disciplined as a result.

A Health Department spokesperson declined to comment Monday.

Following the incident, Gov. Dan McKee said he was hopeful the injury wouldn’t hurt the state’s chances to secure approval from The Joint Commission, a national agency that’s threatened to revoke the hospital’s accreditation because of conditions there.

The involvement of CMS will not be the first time federal regulators have visited Eleanor Slater for a patient-involved incident this year. On May 17, a patient who was ordered into the hospital by a judge walked off the Cranston campus without anybody noticing.

A CMS report about the incident reviewed by Target 12 shows the patient was later “found at a four-lane high traffic intersection by a staff member leaving their shift.”

“This placed the patient at risk for serious injury, harm, impairment or death,” federal regulators wrote in the report.

The report shows the patient — who had a traumatic brain injury that causes disorientation — wandered off after being with a group of other patients. The patient slipped away when one employee stopped at a snack area with several patients while another proceeded to an elevator that went back to the unit, according to the report.

The deficiencies cited in the report from the May incident had not been corrected as of Tuesday, according to the CMS website. That incident was first reported by The Boston Globe.

Eleanor Slater is currently trying to stay in the good graces of The Joint Commission, which earlier this year issued a scathing report on the hospital’s conditions and threatened to revoke its accreditation, which allows the state to receive millions of dollars in federal support. The commission’s report referenced an incident in 2019 involving a nurse who told a patient to “go shoot yourself.”

The state-run hospital has become the focus of intense scrutiny throughout this year because of its money woes, deteriorating buildings and tense work environment. That scrutiny includes an ongoing investigation into patient care and billing practices by R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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