Western State Hospital said Tuesday that it has satisfied federal inspectors who had concluded patients there were in “immediate jeopardy” of harm.
That appears to at least temporarily lift the threat of losing $64 million a year that is crucial for treating the Lakewood hospital’s more than 800 psychiatric patients.
But that leaves up in the air the outcome of an earlier federal funding threat triggered by the August beating of a restrained patient, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services that runs the hospital.
And the agency’s attempts to show federal officials it is improving safety might conflict with efforts to follow court orders.
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“The most immediate concerns have been addressed, and this is just the first step to ensure Western State Hospital provides a better quality of care and improves the safety of staff and patients,” Carla Reyes, a DSHS assistant secretary, said in a statement.
“We have difficult and critical work to complete in fixing the deficiencies. I am grateful to the entire WSH team who worked together to begin making improvements that will lead to sustainable long-term solutions.”
Federal inspectors concluded this month that patients were in danger of physical and psychological harm and identified among the reasons insufficient staffing, fears of retaliation by management, and problems with control of infections and restraint of patients.
After a follow-up inspection Monday and Tuesday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services accepted the state’s short-term plan for improvement, DSHS said.
The plan involves changes to training and deployment of staff and calls for using isolation and restraint of patients only as a last resort. It offers employees a contact outside the agency to approach with concerns. The plan also frees up staff by canceling a planned expansion funded by the Legislature.
The now-shelved expansion was a response to judges’ demands for more timely care of mentally ill patients.
DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley told lawmakers in a Monday letter that the hospital’s moves to improve safety would exceed his agency’s budget authority and would require lawmakers to add money when they reconvene in January.
Quigley said he has authorized staffing of 65 employees above what’s budgeted and about 60 more to be deployed as backups when dangerous patients need one-on-one monitoring. Overtime will increase, he said, and the state will contract with psychiatrists.
He told lawmakers the hospital is adding a safety officer and an expert on reducing use of restraints and that it has committed to contracting with an outside consultant.