WA Psychiatric Facility Cited for Failing to Protect Workers from Violence

Station KUOW reports that Washington’s largest state-run psychiatric hospital has been cited and fined for failing to protect workers from assaults by patients.

The enforcement action this week by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) follows a months-long investigation triggered by three violent patient-on-nurse assaults last year at Western State Hospital (WSH) in Lakewood, Washington.

In two of those assaults, the nurses were pushed to the floor and stomped by patients. In the third assault, a patient bit off a portion of a nurse’s ear. 

The L&I investigation found that Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) “did not do everything reasonably necessary to protect employees” from workplace violence, according to a copy of the citation obtained by the public radio Northwest News Network. 

The hospital was also cited for failing to report a work-related hospitalization of a staff member within the required eight hours and for not enforcing the hospital’s own Accident Prevention Program. 

L&I required the following:

  • Identify work areas and tasks that require two or more staff, with the goal of eliminating assaults;
  • Ensure adequate staffing to protect employees from assaults on all wards and all shifts;
  • Enclose all nurses’ stations; and
  • Implement a plan to transfer assaultive patients to specialty wards.

According to KUOW’s report, the L&I findings are just the latest in a long series of setbacks for the troubled and aging 857-bed state hospital.

Last June, WSH lost its federal certification and with it $53 million in federal funding, about 20 percent of the hospital’s annual budget, after a months-long turnaround effort felt short.