Washington hospital CEO out amid state probe of how hospital handled former nurse charged in murder

Mark Kettner has resigned as CEO of Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, Wash., amid a state investigation into the pyschiatric hospital's handling of a case involving a former nurse charged with assault and murder, according to local news reports.

Mr. Kettner resigned, effective Sept. 14, amid a probe of management decisions concerning the former nurse, a spokesperson for the state confirmed to Becker's. The resignation closes a Mr. Kettner's personnel investigation related to the management decisions involving Mr. Phillps.

The former nurse, Joshua Phillips, is in Spokane County Jail on $1.5 million bond, charged with the April murder of another hospital employee, Kassie Dewey, and the attempted murder of her 5-year-old daughter.

The local newspaper Inlander reported in September that the hospital failed to report charges of Mr. Phillips' assault of another co-worker in 2019 to the state and allowed him to return to work in a position of authority over her despite her restraining order against him. Hospital managers also failed to report Mr. Phillips' domestic violence conviction linked to the assault charges in 2020, according to the newspaper. 

Hospital management failed to follow its own policies and procedures after Mr. Phillips was charged with the co-worker's assault in 2019, according to Inlander, which obtained an internal review of Mr. Phillips' employment via a public records request.

"Eastern State Hospital does not have a clear process for staff to follow when providing a no-contact order to management," the review stated, according to the newspaper. "This was confirmed when various supervisors provided different answers when we asked them what the process was for staff to turn in no-contact orders."

According to Inlander, Mr. Phillips pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence in June 2020, related to the 2019 assault charges, and the state says the hospital knew of the conviction and should have notified the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, which could have conducted an investigation of Mr. Phillips.

Tony Bowie will serve as interim CEO of Eastern State Hospital, and Mary Joe Currey will serve  as interim COO while COO Ronda Kenney is temporarily reassigned pending a personnel investigation, Tyler Hemstreet, a spokesperson at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services' behavioral health administration, confirmed to Becker's

Read the full Inlander report here and the Spokesman-Review report here.

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