- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) - Patient-care problems at an 800-bed psychiatric hospital in Lakewood rise to the level of immediate jeopardy, officials say.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services tells The Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1NiLp8r) that a federal inspection of Western State Hospital that wrapped up Thursday found the problems.

The conclusion by inspectors with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services means a potential loss of federal funding.

“There are multiple issues throughout the hospital,” said Department of Social and Health Services Deputy Assistant Secretary Victoria Roberts. “Staffing is a component of that. Part of it is that we’ve been trying to expand and do a lot of work very, very rapidly.”

Roberts said the hospital has about three weeks to make improvements or possibly lose funding. It’s not clear how much money could be lost. The hospital gets about $64 million a year in federal money.

In August, an assault by one patient on another caused federal authorities to put the hospital on notice it was violating federal standards. In the most recent inspection, federal officials determined serious problems remained.

Roberts said the hospital is working with federal regulators to make sure patients are safe.

“We are not anywhere close to saying that we’re going to close the hospital or parts of the hospital,” Roberts said.

To try to correct problems involving a shortage of psychiatrists, nurses and other staff, the state agency is canceling a hospital expansion and plans to close a recently opened ward.

The state is also facing a federal judge’s order to improve the hospital by Jan. 2 so it can provide service to criminal defendants waiting in jail for evaluation or treatment.

Roberts said hiring psychiatrists is a challenge because of a national shortage and because the state agency doesn’t pay as much as other agencies or practices.

Meanwhile, the agency has hired temporary contract psychiatrists.

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Information from: The Chronicle, http://www.chronline.com

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