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Following attempted murder suspect's escape, Oregon State Hospital pledges to change secure patient transport procedures

A federal report faulting the hospital comes shortly after an incident in which a dangerous man escaped in a stolen hospital van and was on the loose for two days.
Credit: Portland Fire and Rescue
Christopher Lee Pray was found in a Portland pond, entrapped in mud, authorities said. He had escaped custody from the Oregon State Hospital.

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon State Hospital will immediately change its procedures for securely transporting patients in vehicles in response to a federal investigation that faulted the hospital's methodology, according to a Friday news release from the Oregon Health Authority.

The news release didn't directly mention it, but the announcement comes about two weeks after an incident in which a man charged with attempted murder escaped custody by stealing a minivan during transport back to the state hospital in Salem after receiving medical treatment at a local hospital. The man was recaptured in Portland after about 36 hours.

A surveyor visited the state hospital on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and faulted several issues related to secure patient transport. Hospital administrators received "immediate jeopardy" findings from the report, according to the news release, and are taking remedial steps including making physical changes to the hospital's vehicles.

"Our foremost priority is always the safety of patients, staff and the public," Oregon State Hospital Superintendent Dolly Matteucci said in a statement. "We appreciate the findings the investigator provided us this afternoon. We are taking steps right away to reduce the possibility that an unauthorized leave could occur during transport and potentially put themselves, staff or members of the community at risk."

The Oregon State Hospital is run by the Oregon Health Authority and provides psychiatric treatment for adults who require hospital-level care for mental illness, including adults accused of crimes who require treatment in order to be deemed fit to stand trial. It operates two facilities, one in Salem and the other in Junction City.

Federal rules give the hospital 23 day to make approved changes to address the CMS report's findings, or else the hospital could be terminated from eligibility to receive federal reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid services. Hospital administrators will provide a corrective action plan for CMS review early this week, according to the news release.

KGW has reached out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more information about the specific ways in which the report faulted the hospital, and will update this story if we hear back.

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