Harbor Oaks Hospital too unsafe to expand, neighbors say

NEW BALTIMORE, Mich. (WXYZ) - Families who live near Harbor Oaks Hospital in New Baltimore railed against the facility’s proposed expansion Tuesday, crowding a meeting at city hall and demanding the hospital improve safety before completing a major addition.

“Harbor Oaks as a facility is not functioning properly or staffed properly for the type of patients that they have,” said Krista Armstrong, a New Baltimore resident. “And now they’re going to build a new facility, and who knows if staffing will increase?”

Residents filled last night’s meeting in response to a recent 7 Action News investigation into the hospital that revealed accounts from former staff members who say Harbor Oaks was routinely and sometimes severely understaffed, putting patients and employees at risk.

The WXYZ report also uncovered stacks of police reports since only 2015 showing a pattern of alleged physical and even sexual abuse among patients--abuse that staffers say was made possible by a lack of manpower. In addition, Michigan's Occupational Health and Safety Administration found 76 cases of assaults on staff by patients since 2013.

Harbor Oaks CEO Sari Abromovich was expected to be in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting of the New Baltimore Planning Commission, but canceled at the last minute and asked the commission to postpone her hospital’s request until next month.

Residents in the audience were upset at Abromovich’s about face.

“Who will answer our concerns if the CEO chooses to leave when she gets here and sees the news trucks?” said Wendy Sikon-Brossard, whose sister used to work at the hospital and is currently filing suit for wrongful termination.

Residents on Tuesday also raised concerns about past incidents where patients escaped from the facility. At least four times since 2015, patients have been able to escape.

“My concern is that it’s not a properly run mental health facility,” said Janet Kubiak. “It’s not properly staffed and not safe for the patients.”

In one instance, a patient was found by police holding a knife.  In another, a patient with a known violent history was found at a bus stop, wielding an ax.

On Wednesday, Harbor Oaks CEO Sari Abromovich released the following statement:

Harbor Oaks Hospital is proud and grateful to have the opportunity to build a brand new, state of the art treatment center to provide care for those most vulnerable and in need of behavioral health services.  Our patients deserve to receive high quality, patient centered care in an environment that provides the dignity and respect they need to achieve a long-term recovery and enjoy a significantly improved quality of life.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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