Western State Hospital workers say they have 'no confidence' in nursing administration

Nurses at Lakewood, Wash.-based Western State Hospital signed a letter indicating they have "no confidence" in the psychiatric facility's nursing administration, according to a Northwest News Network report.

At least 150 nurses signed the letter, which asks the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to replace CNO Karen Pitman and her deputies.

"We have lost all trust, faith and confidence in the current Western State Hospital nursing administration to advocate for nursing," they wrote.

The letter — which was delivered to Western State Hospital CEO Dave Holt and DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange — claims the nursing administration held meetings on Oct. 16 stating they would implement changes in working conditions "very soon" without input and processes required through the contract agreement between DSHS and Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW.

It also claims nursing administration "has not insisted on taking measures which would ensure the safety of nursing personnel. Severe assaults [on staff] have now become commonplace."

The letter comes as Western State Hospital nurses have been injured by patients, according to the report. In August, it was reported a patient allegedly stomped on a staff member's head about eight times.

DSHS officials told Northwest News Network they remain confident in Ms. Pitman, and she is prioritizing safety.

"What she is absolutely charged with right now is ensuring that the ward structure includes a culture of safety for everyone on the ward," said Tonik Joseph, deputy assistant secretary of the behavioral health administration at DSHS. 

The nurses' letter claims E6, a specialty total care ward, is being closed and that the process was implemented before negotiation.

"Patient care was not considered. … Staff were required to transfer under duress," the letter stated.

But Ms. Joseph took issue with the letter's assertions, telling Northwest News Network E6 is being temporarily closed to make it more secure and convert it to a forensic ward, which will accommodate jail inmates who are receiving services at the facility.

The hospital has about 800 beds and is one of two state-owned psychiatric hospitals for adults. According to the report, less than half of the facility's nursing staff signed the no-confidence letter.



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