Monday, December 05, 2022

Special counsel requests information in hospital complaint

by Associated Press
| October 29, 2021 3:00 PM

HELENA (AP) — The Legislature's special counsel has given Montana's attorney general a Nov. 5 deadline to turn over information related to his office's investigation into a complaint over the way a COVID-19 patient was being treated at the hospital in Helena.

Special counsel Abra Belke wrote to Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Thursday asking to examine all documents, records or electronically stored information related to the complaint made by the patient's family and his office's investigation. Belke requested memos, emails, dispatch records and notes taken by Department of Justice employees, the Montana State News Bureau reported.

Kyler Nerison, a spokesperson for Knudsen, said Friday he did not foresee a problem meeting the deadline.

The legislative investigation comes after St. Peter's Health reported three public officials contacted hospital providers who were threatened and had their clinical judgement called into question, spokesperson Andrea Groom told the Montana State News Bureau on Oct. 18.

The hospital did not name the officials, but Knudsen and his office acknowledged he had a Montana Highway Patrol trooper investigate a report from the family of a patient. The family said the patient was not being given prescribed medications and the hospital was not delivering legal documents or allowing the patient to see their relatives.

Nerison said the patrol investigation had nothing to do with the woman's medical treatment, but was about allegations that the hospital violated her rights and her family's rights. The county attorney reviewed the trooper's report and found no reason to file charges against the hospital, the Montana State News Bureau has reported.

The patient in the case, a woman in her 80s, had wanted to be treated with ivermectin, according to a post on the Montana Federation of Republican Women's Facebook page. Ivermectin is a drug used to treat parasites that is not federally approved to treat COVID-19. The patient died on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Knudsen said that Chief Deputy Attorney General Kristen Hansen was also involved in the issue.

"My understanding is that somebody in the family reached out to her," Knudsen told the Montana State News Bureau on Wednesday. Hansen is "the one who reached out to me."

Democratic legislative leaders asked the House speaker and Senate president to approve a special counsel investigation into whether Knudsen overstepped his authority in sending a trooper to the hospital. Helena police typically handle security issues at the hospital. The investigation was approved Monday.

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