Flooding causes unsanitary conditions at Washington psych hospital, staff members say

Lakewood, Wash.-based Western State Hospital is experiencing recurrent sewage flooding, due in part to issues with the aging building and decreased funding, staff members told CBS affiliate KIRO 7

The flooding began in April after patients purposely clogged toilets. The flooding contaminated patient medical records stored in the hospital's basement and forced leaders to shut down some areas of the building. One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said human feces were also falling from the hospital's ceiling.

"Drains were clogged where human resources and medical records had workspace. The ground floor was flooded with sewage coming up from floor drains," Dave Holt, CEO of Western State, wrote in an email to staff about a September sewage issue, according to KIRO 7. Mr. Holt added that all areas were disinfected, and no signs of moisture or black mold were found during an October inspection.

"This is a repeated issue over many, many years," Paul Vilja, RN, a nurse at Western State, told KIRO 7. He filed a safety complaint with the state's Labor and Industries department, which was closed after the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, which operates Western State, proved it was mitigating the issue.

Estimated decontamination and construction costs to resolve the flooding currently total $270,000. The flooding comes after the hospital lost $53 million in federal funding, in part due to numerous deficiencies around the hospital's physical structure.

"Employees at Western are encouraged, if they feel there is an environmental health concern, to bring it up to their supervisor, or contact the facilities staff." Sean Murphy, assistant secretary of DSHS, said in a statement to KIRO 7. He added that the department works to ensure that staff work in a safe and healthy environment.

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