Psychiatrists’ Grievance Concerning Atascadero State Hospital Denied by State
The Department of Mental Health has denied a grievance filed by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists on behalf of physicians at Atascadero State Hospital alleging that inadequate staffing has created unsafe working conditions, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.
In a Nov. 10 letter, union administrator Joe Bader wrote that "the workload demands are creating a situation where some physicians believe that patient care may be compromised if" open psychiatrist positions are not filled. Bader and union President Robert Weinmann said the union is asking DMH to stop opening new units until it has filled vacant positions or arranged for currently employed physicians to work overtime.
Weinmann said physicians at Atascadero are "getting worried because (administrators) are going to increase the number of people in the hospital that need care, while continuing to decrease the number of psychiatrists available."
Hospital spokesperson Barrie Hafler said that 33 of 39 psychiatrist positions were filled as of Nov 1.
John Rodriguez, DMH's deputy director responsible for state hospitals, said the hospital is not required to maintain a minimum number of psychiatrists or physicians on site. Rodriguez said that all state facilities are being allowed to accommodate more patients than the number for which they are licensed until a new state mental hospital, which is being built in Coalinga for sexually violent patients, becomes operational in September. He added, "I don't think we have a problem. I think it's something we need to address and continue to recruit for, but it's not a crisis."
Bader on Dec. 14 said that the union would consider whether to appeal the grievance to arbitration (Manese-Lee, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 12/28/04).