Accused murderer escaped an institution that posed 'immediate je - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Accused murderer escaped an institution that posed 'immediate jeopardy' to patients and staff

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For some familiar with the history of Western State Hospital, the recent news of escaped inmates, Mark Adams and Anthony Garver, comes as no surprise. Authorities say the two escaped from the hospital through a broken window. 

The hospital is described on its website as "one of the largest psychiatric hospitals west of the Mississippi" with more than 800 beds. It's also Washington's oldest institution, dating back to 1871. It's history though, isn't just ancient, it's messy.

In November of 2015, a federal inspection of Western State Hospital found patient-care problems rose to the level of "immediate jeopardy." The Seattle Times published a story in January calling the hospital "the most screwed up" institution in the state as they detailed its rap sheet of problems uncovered during the federal audit that found the hospital posed "immediate jeopardy" to patients and staff.

As recent as February of this year the hospital was given a deadline to fix multiple safety problems or lose millions in federal funds.  The notice was issued by inspectors from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) after a patient at the hospital was given the wrong medication (the hospital administers 9,500 doses of medication every day).

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees the hospital submitted their plan to improve conditions, safety and treatment in February and CMS approved it. The initial deadline for those changes to happen was March 1st, but in late February, CMS extended the deadline to April 1st.

KOMO News in Seattle spoke with David Carlon, a legal counselor for Disability Rights Washington, who after studying the hospitals substandard care, said, "We should find it completely unacceptable that we as taxpayers pay for this hospital to be run and this is how it's being run." 

Of the many systemic problems, one example he highlighted in their story talked about how one patient who assaulted 17 people in the institution in just a few months and failed to respond to a treatment plan, was then put in body restraints for 20-24 hours at a time even though restraint training hadn't been given to staff in "a couple years."

"This is very dangerous. People can die in these types of situations," Carlson said.

Hospital authorities have said the root cause of their problems stems from their inability to hire and retain staff (nearly 300 jobs remain unfilled at the hospital which is funded for 1,800). So in response to that, the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee added funds to the hospital's budget to provide an increase in salaries for staff.

But some doctors and nurses have told The Associated Press a different story. They say the problems stem from bad decisions made by the hospital's administration and many fear retaliation if they try to speak out about what they say is a mismanaged system. The agency has denied retaliating against staff.

According to the Seattle Times, hospital administration imposed mandatory overtime, leaving already shorthanded staff to treat patients they didn't know.

 
Since extra funds were given to the hospital, state lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee are finding that improving the state's mental health system will not be an easy fix.

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