Police Criticize Staffing at State Hospital
Minimal staffing levels for licensed mental health care providers at Coalinga State Hospital pose a safety threat to hospital workers, according to an October 2005 report by high-ranking police officers at the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports. The hospital this week released the report publicly in response to an unfair labor practice charge by the police officers' union.
Several housing units at the hospital operate at state-required staffing levels -- one caregiver for every six to eight patients. However, licensing requirements for the remaining 50-bed units were waived last summer. Those units are assigned two hospital police officers and one senior psychiatric technician.
According to the report, "It would border on negligence to sustain the idea of the proposed minimum staffing levels" because "patients that harbor a propensity toward violence or propagate illegal activities would 'slip through the cracks' and immediately recognize the extreme weakness in staff's span of control."
The report recommends security locks on patient doors and surveillance cameras, among other measures.
Officials from the hospital and the Department of Health Services said the report "contains numerous inaccuracies."
Hospital Executive Director Tom Voss said there have been "no incidents" of violence against staff since the facility started accepting patients seven months ago (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 4/6).