Washington hospital CEO ordered to admit patient or go to jail

A Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner ordered the new CEO of Lakewood, Wash.-based Western State Hospital to either admit a man to the psychiatric hospital or report to jail, according to the Seattle Times.

Cheryl Strange, who was named CEO of Western State in April, was found in contempt of court Friday for keeping a man with dementia and behavioral disturbances on the waiting list for admission after a civil court ordered the man to go to the hospital earlier this year. If Ms. Strange refuses to admit the patient, she must report to jail Wednesday.

A court ordered the man detained for 14 days on April 20, but he was not placed in an acceptable mental health facility. In early May, he was ordered detained for another 90 days but was never admitted to Western State. Even though state law specifically requires he be sent to Western State, the psychiatric hospital said it didn't have space available.

While waiting to be admitted to Western State, the man has been held in a general acute care hospital. However, he has been boarded in the general hospital for more than a 30-day stretch in violation of state law, according to Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams.

After the hearing Friday, Ms. Strange said she doesn't intend to admit the patient. "I will not override that (waitlist) to place somebody to avoid going to jail," she said. Ms. Strange said she will report to jail.

Carla Reyes, an assistant Department of Social and Health Services secretary, came to Ms. Strange's defense. In a statement Friday afternoon, Ms. Reyes said, "Our waitlist must be managed so that people with the most serious mental illnesses, and no other place to get treatment, are admitted. We cannot increase civil admissions until we have staff who can provide the quality of care that leads to recovery."

Western State Hospital has faced a string of problems this year. In early April, two patients deemed "dangerous" escaped from the facility. One was found the same day and the other was located the next day. In addition to severe staffing shortages, Washington state officials have amped up safety and security measures at Western State.

More articles on Western State:

With $64M in funds on the line, hospital CEO plans comeback after 3 patient escapes in past 2 months
CMS issues safety warning to Washington hospital after patient receives wrong medication

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