Cumberland Times-News

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October 16, 2013

Finan Center residents, staff reeling from attack

CUMBERLAND — Monday’s life-threatening assault of a staff worker at the Thomas B. Finan Center has caused upset to not only staff but also patients who have expressed support for the people who provide daily care for them at the psychiatric in-house medical facility.

Two-hundred employees staff the Finan Center on Willowbrook Road that currently houses 88 patients, according to Judy Hott, chief executive officer there since 2005. Hott has worked at the Finan Center for 34 years and formerly served as the director of nursing.

A staff member was seriously injured Monday when a combative patient struck him in the back of the head with a 7-inch galvanized spike. The makeshift weapon was lodged in the victim’s head when first responders arrived, who stabilized him and rushed him to the nearby Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.

The victim survived the attack and was released from the hospital following emergency department treatment of his injuries.

Craig Zello, 50, of Hagerstown, who allegedly attacked the male nurse was subdued by Maryland state troopers. He remained jailed without bond Wednesday at the Allegany County Detention Center on attempted murder and related charges.  

Zello was transferred to the Finan Center in August 2012. Court records show he was found not criminally responsible on an attempted carjacking charge in 2006.

“I think we all feel very fortunate that our employee did not suffer a serious injury. We are taking this matter very, very seriously and organizing a multidisciplinary team to review the matter,” said Hott.

A series of meetings has been conducted as a result of the incident — including sessions with patients.

“This has been upsetting to our clientele. We have had lots of meetings to talk with patients to hear their fears, their concerns, questions. Many have expressed great concern for our injured co-worker and some are making cards and things like that to express their support.

“We are a small facility. We know each other well and this is a member of our family who was injured. We respond knowing this could have been any one of us. We work to provide an absolutely safe environment for patients and staff. I believe our staff has the right to come to work and feel safe,” said Hott.

Hott said patient and staff confidentiality rules and regulations prohibit her from addressing specific details of the assault.

The Finan Center, she said, uses in-patient units that are locked and secured, and authorized keys are needed to get in and out.

Patients and their possessions are checked upon admission to the facility and upon return after leaving on a pass authorized by the facility.

Security personnel are present 24-7 to routinely respond to any emergencies. Staff is also trained to respond to emergency situations.

Hott said Monday’s incident is one of the most challenging situations that has occurred at the Finan Center.

“The staff here do a phenomenal job every day. I am very proud of them. But with that, we can do better, and we are moving forward to make this a safer facility,” she said.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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