Dix patient transfer delayed


An advocacy group for disabled people asked a judge Tuesday to prevent patients at /*Dorothea Dix Hospital*/ from being moved to a new mental hospital in Granville County, saying state regulators haven't followed what the Legislature required before the transfer.

Thursday that judge ruled patients will not be transfered for the next 10 days, which blocks the scheduled Oct. 1 move of patients. The next hearing on the issue will be Oct. 6.

Both the defense and plaintiff stated they were both in court for the same reason -- to ensure the safety of the patients.

John Rittelmeyer, attorney for the advocacy group, stated several times the concern for the safety, commute of employees if moved and the emergency systems not being adequate.

Rittelmeyer also spoke about the Medical Alert internal program not being sufficient enough due to the number of dropped calls concerning important information within the facility.

The defense attorney for Dorothea Dix argued, "any treatment involves risk, but the benefits of moving the patients out way the risk."

Disability Rights North Carolina and three Dix patients sued in Wake County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order blocking the scheduled Oct. 1 move of the first patients, executive director Vicki Smith said.

The group, which receives federal funds and is obligated to monitor mental hospitals and take legal action to address problems, said Central Regional Hospital in Butner remains unsafe for the 170 patients slated to move from Dix by Oct. 8.

Continued malfunctions of duress alarm, paging and wireless communication systems at Central hospital endangers patients who may need urgent assistance, Smith said in an interview.

"When there's an emergency situation and a doctor and nurse has to be paged for assistance, that assistance may not arrive as quickly as possible," Smith said.

Patients from nearby John Umstead Hospital moved into Central hospital in July. But these and other problems have surfaced since then and haven't been addressed, according to the lawsuit.

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