The former head of the state’s mental health hospital in Augusta has resigned from his position at a troubled Bangor hospital less than three years after taking over.

David Proffitt is leaving his position as president and chief executive officer of The Acadia Hospital, which has made headlines in recent months after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation determined hospital practices exposed staff to unsafe working conditions.

Michelle Hood, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, which operates The Acadia Hospital, announced Proffitt’s resignation Friday evening, according to The Bangor Daily News. The resignation takes effect immediately.

Proffitt left his position as superintendent of Riverview Psychiatric Center in September of 2008 to take the position at The Acadia Hospital, a private psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment provider in Bangor.

Proffitt, who was at Riverview for four years, came to Maine after serving as director of outpatient services at Northern Nevada Adult Mental health Service.

In Augusta, Proffitt supervised a 92-bed adult facility that handles civil and forensic patients.

Acadia Hospital treats children, teens, adults and offers extensive outpatient services.

Former Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Brenda Harvey praised Proffitt at the time of his departure from Riverview for his “elimination of the use of mechanical restraints.”

Employees at Acadia Hospital, however, have claimed Proffitt’s policies against using the restraints created an unsafe work environment.

“I’ve heard him say on many occasions the most dangerous thing you can do, for yourself and others, is grab onto others,” former Maine Chief Justice Dan Wathen said Saturday.

But OSHA investigators identified at least 115 instances between 2008 and 2010 “in which employees of the psychiatric hospital and clinic were assaulted on the job by violent patients.”

OSHA officials released a report in January announcing they were citing the hospital for failing to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury.”

The investigation led six other citations against the hospital for inadequate record keeping.

OSHA recommended changes in patient evaluation, increased staffing level and better staff training to improve workplace safety.

“The serious citation points to the clear and pressing need for the hospital to develop a comprehensive, continuous and effective program that will proactively evaluate, identify and prevent conditions that place workers in harms way,” Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator, wrote with the reports release.

A phone number to reach Proffitt Saturday was unavailable, but days before OSHA released its findings in January, Proffitt said in a press release that the hospital had already made strides toward improving the working conditions.

“Our staff members understand that helping those who are in distress or emotional pain can leave themselves open to injury,” Proffitt wrote.

But, according to the Bangor Daily News report, staff members were less than understanding. Employees not only complained about safety, but said Proffitt’s domineering style had hurt morale.

The complaints echoed those leveled against Proffitt during his time at Riverview, Wathen said.

“There were complaints about his style,” Wathen said. “He’s a forceful guy and a big guy, as well. They were all worked out.”

Helen Bailey, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center of Maine, said Proffitt’s management style sometimes “got in the way” of implementing principally sound practices.

“The things he wanted to do, his philosophy of treatment and what hospitals should provide, and his principals of recovery, were good,” Bailey said. “I read the press about what happened at Acadia, and there were certainly some times at Riverview where there were lots of conflict with staff.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]


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