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Ocala psychiatrist fined $5,000 after jail inmate’s suicide
By Nicki Gorny
September 17, 2015
Marc Weinbaum, the psychiatrist, is being disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine for failing to evaluate 69-year-old John Edward Hummel for suicide risk. The Department of Health opened an investigation on Nov. 30, 2012, about two months after the suicide, said Brad Dalton, deputy press secretary for the department. The final order, filed Aug. 18, 2015, additionally orders Weinbaum to pay nearly $6,000 to reimburse investigation costs and to attend five hours of “risk management” continuing education courses.
Hummel had been arrested Sept. 20, 2012, after exposing himself and soliciting sex acts from an undercover police officer at Scott Springs Park, according to police. Hummel threatened to hang himself in the garage of his Summerfield home, so a detective took him to The Vines in Ocala under Florida’s Baker Act, a law that enables involuntary institutionalization for up to 72 hours if a suicide threat seems credible.
According to an administrative complaint filed by the Department of Health, employees at The Vines conducted an initial assessment, in which Hummel said he had threatened suicide to avoid arrest. He also denied depression, mood swings, loss of energy and other symptoms of depression. Weinbaum — who Meridith Johnson, director of business development at the Vines, said was the hospital’s medical director at the time — was brought in for admission orders.
After observing an apparently relaxed Hummel in the intake area, Weinbaum admitted Hummel to the hospital for further observation and assessment, according to the complaint. The following day, Friday, he discharged Hummel to police without performing a complete psychiatric assessment. Hummel was taken to the Marion County Jail, but he was not placed under suicide watch.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Hummel jumped off a second story railing at the jail. He died later at a hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as “multiple blunt force injuries” and “jump from height.”
Weinbaum “held the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the proper risk assessment was carried out,” according to the complaint. The Board of Health wrote that Weinbaum committed medical malpractice, citing Florida statutes dictating that a physician must perform a complete examination, and must not discharge a patient without first conducting an examination in such cases.
Weinbaum did not return calls for comment. Johnson said he has not worked for The Vines since Dec. 6, 2012.
As a result of Hummel’s death, jail officials adopted a new six-question form to better identify suicide risk in people being booked at the jail. Asking directly whether an inmate has been hospitalized or has threatened suicide, the new protocol involves multiple parties, said Maj. Mike Rolls, corrections bureau chief for the Marion County Jail. Those parties include the law enforcement officials bringing the person in, mental health personnel who may have treated him or her, medical staff at the jail and the inmate.
The system, which is still in effect, aims “to enhance communication between all involved,” Rolls said.
The changes “have been effective,” he added. “We haven’t had another suicide since.”