Hennepin Healthcare faces federal investigation into patient who died shortly after release | KSTP.com

Hennepin Healthcare faces federal investigation into patient who died shortly after release

Jay Kolls
Updated: August 04, 2021 10:22 PM
Created: August 04, 2021 09:30 PM

Hennepin County Medical Center is facing a federal investigation after a 45-year-old man died shortly after being released from the hospital earlier this year.

On March 6, Gregory Cumber was admitted to the emergency room at HCMC. The Minneapolis Police Department requested a 72-hour hold, stating Cumber was "not able to safely care for himself" following an apparent opioid overdose. An MPD officer and EMS personnel had also administered two doses of Narcan.

HCMC emergency room records obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS show Cumber was discharged from the hospital six hours into his stay, around 2 a.m. the next morning, March 7.

The same records also show Cumber was found unconscious on a park bench less than a block from the hospital and was readmitted into the HCMC emergency room, where he was pronounced dead around 8 a.m. that same Sunday morning.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Cumber died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl and PCP.

Cumber's mother, Jessica Scott, filed a complaint with the Minnesota Office of Health Facility Complaints in her quest to find out why her son was released from HCMC just six hours into a request for a 72-hour hold by police.

"I think it was right on because clearly the officer says he was unable to care for himself — he sees this," Scott said. "I screamed and I was like — what? I am thinking, 'Oh my God, he literally walked out of the hospital, walked a block and then died.'"

Scott said she hopes finding out more about the circumstances surrounding her son's death might help another family in a similar situation avoid the same outcome.

"I just picture him alone," Scott said. "And that makes me so sad and angry that my son had to die like that — all alone on a bench."

The Office of Health Facility Complaints and the Minnesota Department of Health sent a letter to Scott telling her the circumstances surrounding her son's release from HCMC after six hours "meets the guidelines for an onsite federal investigation," which will be handled by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Dave Feinwachs, former lead attorney for the Minnesota Hospital Association, reviewed the emergency room records and told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS "things could have been done differently" in Cumber's case.

"Some people need to be held against their wishes for a proper evaluation to be conducted to see if they are indeed safe to go without the chance of harming themselves," Feinwachs said.

When asked if he saw that in the emergency room records he responded, "I don't see that here."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS requested an interview with HCMC about Cumber's case, but a spokesperson declined and issued the following statement:

"Our sympathies are with the family of Mr. Cumber and we have provided them with requested medical records. This is a family matter and we do not believe a conversation in the media would be beneficial or productive at this time."

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