Conditions for staff and patients at Western State, the state-run psychiatric hospital in Staunton, are improving following a partial shutdown of admissions ordered by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.
Western State was one of five state psychiatric hospitals that were closed to new civil admissions on July 9th, although they did continue to accept patients coming from local jails. Hospital director Dr. Jonathan Anderson said they're running at about 70% capacity now with 172 patients.
DR. JONATHAN ANDERSON: Our staffing was very low, and we were worried about the safety of our staff and of the patients because of that staff shortage … We were having episodes where staff were being injured by patients. Now that happens, but I think we all felt that because of the staffing shortage, that that was a setup, and before something really terrible happened, the commissioner wanted to be proactive.
Because the total number of patients is at a more manageable level, the state has allowed them to start bringing in one new patient for every one they discharge. Patients that would have previously been taken to this hospital are now being taken in by private hospitals. Already, Anderson said --
ANDERSON: It feels much better. Things just seem to be going better. And with that reduced census, and the plan to try to continue that, I think will allow us to run more safely. Because that's the bottom line, we want our patients and our staff to be safe.
He's hopeful that the General Assembly will increase the hospital's budget next fiscal year, so that they can recruit and retain more staff with higher wages.