Prison Hospital Cuts Admissions, Closes Unit Amid Staffing Shortage
A state prison hospital in San Luis Obispo County that is experiencing staffing shortages has reduced admissions and closed one of its units for prisoners deemed incompetent to stand trial, according to the California Department of State Hospitals, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports (Strickland, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 10/27).
Background on Hospital
Atascadero State Hospital is a 1,275-bed, maximum-security facility that houses:
- Inmates with mental illnesses or disorders; and
- Inmates deemed unfit to stand trial because of a mental illness or those found not guilty by reason of insanity (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/28).
The hospital's mission is help patients become able to stand trial or return to prison within six months.
Implications of Staffing Shortage
The hospital currently has about 22 psychiatrists, a 33% reduction from September 2012.
In response to the shortage, the hospital last month reduced patient admissions from 24 cases per week to 15 cases.
In addition, the unit used for prisoners who are unable to stand trial because of mental illness was closed this month, according to DSH spokesperson Ralph Montaño.
Montaño said DSH "is making every effort to recruit psychiatrists and anticipates lifting the suspension soon."
However, he added, "The department faces an ongoing challenge to retain and recruit psychiatrists at (Atascadero) due to several factors," such as:
- Geographic location; and
- Competition with other psychiatric facilities and health care providers that offer higher salaries.
Stuart Bussey -- president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which represents the hospital's employees -- said the shortage is "not good for the treatment of the patients or the safety of the doctors" (San Luis Obispo Tribune, 10/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.