SKOWHEGAN — Code Enforcement Officer Randall Gray was shocked at what he saw one night recently with his father in the emergency room at Redington-Fairview General Hospital.

He said people had been fighting and ended up at the hospital, bloodied and bruised. Skowhegan police officers were called to quiet the situation, but it was uncomfortable, Gray said.

“There’d obviously been some people in a scrimmage,” Gray said. “There was some type of fight, because he was bruised up pretty bad.”

Soon there will be a full-time Skowhegan police office on duty at night in the emergency room, paid for by the hospital. It will be a calming force more than anything, a hospital official said.

Gray said two Skowhegan police officers were sent to the hospital on the recent night he was there to get the situation under control, but the sight of people injured from fighting was unnerving.

The presence of the two patrol officers — the only two on duty at night in Skowhegan — also meant that the rest of town had no town police presence.

“Honestly, seeing the two police officers, it just made you feel more comfortable and I’m sure the patients coming in and out so much more comfortable,” Gray said. “You see things happening every single day today, and when you’re there with your loved ones, you don’t need a person distracting the emergency people that should be taking care of the people that really need it.”

In light of similar reports of incidents at the hospital in recent months, the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 this week to enter into a contract agreement with the hospital for a designated hospital resource officer, not just for calls as needed.

Jeffrey Austin, spokesman for the Maine Hospital Association, said the organization does not keep data on which hospitals hire trained police officers, but all hospitals have some kind of security force in place.

“The need certainly is there,” Austin said Wednesday. “The emergency department, proportionally, is just handling more substance abuse and more behavior health cases that oftentimes carry with them associated law enforcement issues. Those kinds of cases, where you’ve got more social needs are coming through the door, they need help outside the medical community to manage those situations.”

The officer — the Skowhegan department’s 16th police officer — would be newly hired and would be assigned full time to the emergency room area, Chief Donald Bolduc said. Bolduc said he researched the issue of hospital resource officers and found only once such designated officer in Maine, from the York Police Department. But a York police official said Wednesday that the department’s arrangement with York Hospital, which lasted 10 years, is no longer in effect.

Bolduc told selectmen that Redington-Fairview “is willing to accept the full wage and benefit cost of the additional officer and 50 percent of the expense to send the new officer to the 18-week Maine Criminal Justice Academy, if necessary. Their primary focus is the safety of their employees, the patients and staff.”

There will be a stipend differential of $2 per hour for the officer assigned to the hospital, as well as a clothing and training allowance, paid for by the hospital.

Bolduc said the agreement is similar to the one designating a school resource office at the high school and a Skowhegan officer assigned to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The officer would work 40 or 42 hours per week Thursday though Monday, from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., 52 weeks a year, with replacement personnel for vacations and holidays. The job will be a union position. Bolduc said the hospital agrees that if the department experiences a manpower shortage in the future that the resource officer might return to regular patrol duty until the needs are filled.

Bolduc said he met with Securitas Maine, a security guard company at the hospital, and with hospital public relations director Carol Steward, who requested that the full-time officer be stationed in the emergency room. Securitas has the contract for security at the hospital, but its employees do not carry side arms or weapons, Bolduc said.

The agreement with the town goes a step further than one agreed on in January 2014 to increase the hospital’s role in security matters and to reimburse the town’s Police Department when it responds to emergencies at the hospital. With that agreement, the hospital agreed to pay for details in special situations, such as when a patient is combative and threatens the hospital staff and a police officer is needed.

Steward said at the time that in the three or four months leading up to the 2014 agreement, the hospital had reimbursed the Skowhegan Police Department for about 70 to 80 hours of time at the hospital, primarily in the emergency room, at an hourly rate of $28.50. Police were not reimbursed before the adoption of the 2014 agreement, she said.

Steward said in 2014 the hospital only had partial security coverage during the week, with two security officers during the day Monday through Friday and one person on weekends and nights. The hospital later added round-the-clock coverage by hiring two full-time security officers, bringing the total from nine to 11 employees, as well as a handful of part-time ones.

Steward said Wednesday there is the security of having a formal contract for a trained police officer on duty without fear that the regular patrol is tied up on calls elsewhere.

“When we just call as we need it, there’s not always an officer available,” Steward said. “It’s going to guarantee the consistency of having him on call when we need him.”

Steward said if a difficult situation arises in the emergency room, the doctors, nurses, staff, patients and family members all will feel more safe a police officer is nearby, one who could take action if needed. She said if sometimes a difficult person shows up, just having an officer there makes the person more willing to cooperate.

A contract will be drawn up in the coming days for final approval by the town and the hospital.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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