According to federal regulators, an unsafe psychiatric hospital in Washington may soon receive fewer funds unless it addresses its multitude of problems.
The Western State Hospital in Lakewood has already had three federal warnings issued against it this year, and it may lose millions of dollars in funding. At the moment, the clinic receives $4.7 million from Medicaid, and an additional $11.2 million from Medicare, on a yearly basis.
This financial support might soon end however, since the facility located in Pierce County has been accused of breaching a series of safety regulations, and thus putting its patients at risk.
As documents obtained by The Associated Press revealed, the hospital’s violations verge from using smoke detectors and fire alarms that are actually out-of-order, to negligence when it comes to supervising violent patients.
Western State Hospital has received 90-day termination notices from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The warnings were filed in January, March and September, following inspections which revealed breaches in patient safety.
Back in January, three staff members were injured by two patients. Although guidelines clearly specified that the attackers should be immediately moved to a special unit, one of them remained in the ward, without proper supervision. It was only 5 days afterwards that the disruptive individual was finally transferred, after making further violent threats.
Back then, hospital executives promised they would never permit such incidents to happen again in their establishment. However, the clinic remained plighted by more trouble, proving that it had failed to maintain order within its walls.
In March, following a surprise fire inspection, it was discovered the hospital is grossly unequipped for emergency situations. Its fire alarms are faulty, its doors don’t keep the flames and smoke from enveloping the entire building, and some areas have no fire surveillance system.
Another review of the clinic’s operation showed that electrical outlets are unsafe, medical supplies are past their expiration date, restrained patients aren’t properly monitored, and the facility is unhygienic.
The latest notice was issued following an incident which occurred on August 15, when two patients got involved into a heated argument. While one of the individuals was sedated and restrained by doctors, the other one was allowed to punch him and attack him with his shoe.
In response to these accusations, a spokesperson of the state agency that manages the 800-bed psychiatric hospital has declared that conditions can only be improved through more funds and staff.
Western State Hospital is overseen by the state Department of Social and Health Services’ Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration.
According to Carla Reyes, acting assistant secretary for this division, while hospital staff recognize the importance of patient safety, an additional $9.4 million are needed to introduce the desired changes. Moreover, this extra funding is also important in order to maintain accreditation by hiring necessary staff and ensuring better medical supervision.
Image Source: NWPR