Washington state spends $62M in workplace injury claims for 1 hospital

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Employees have filed 1,900 injury claims at Lakewood, Wash.-based Western State Hospital since 2009, which has cost state taxpayers more than $62 million, KIRO 7 reports. 

Staff injuries resulting from bites, punches and headstomps are common at the state-run hospital, according to KIRO 7, which cited more than 3,000 pages of incident reports from the last two years. Western State was fined in early 2019 after an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries found the hospital and the state's Department of Social and Health Services "did not do everything reasonably necessary to protect employees," KIRO 7 reports.

In 2018, the labor department received an anonymous complaint detailing 38 assaults in a two-week period at Western State, including an employee hospitalization DSHS failed to report. The complaint prompted the Service Employees International Union, which represents many employees at Western State, to send a letter to DSHS in spring 2019. The letter recommended the hospital develop a new risk assessment tool for identifying high-risk patients, enclose nurses' stations and build a more secure unit for violent patients.

Sean Murphy, assistant secretary at DSHS for the Behavioral Health Administration, told KIRO 7 that Western State is still rebuilding from budget cuts during the 2008 recession. He acknowledged that more actions must be taken to protect Western State employees. Mr. Murphy said lawmakers have allocated $21.7 million to create a 12-bed unit for violence-prone patients, provide crisis intervention staff training and begin enclosing the nurses' stations, three of which have already been enclosed.

"Stabilizing that population, leveling it out, getting folks assigned to the right wards is … an important part of our safety initiative," Mr. Murphy told KIRO 7. "I'm confident in the improvements that we're making, that they will definitely make an impact."

To view the full report, click here

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