Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital quietly withdrew from a national accreditation program three months ago. Officials say the move will focus attention on an improvement plan with federal regulators to secure federal certification and maintain funding.
OLYMPIA — The state’s largest psychiatric hospital quietly withdrew from a national accreditation program three months ago.
Western State Hospital voluntarily withdrew from accreditation by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization, on May 24, according to a Joint Commission spokeswoman.
But the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees the facility, didn’t announce the decision publicly. The silence stands in contrast to other recent developments, like a hospital improvement plan that was finalized and announced in June with federal regulators.
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In an email, a DSHS spokeswoman wrote that the agency didn’t intend to keep its withdrawal from accreditation quiet.
“Hospital employees were informed through leadership, but admittedly we could have done a much better job” of announcing the decision, said DSHS spokeswoman Kathy Spears. “There were many discussions surrounding the decision, but that information didn’t get spread far and wide.”
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office was informed of the decision around the time it was made, according to Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee.
The development was first reported Monday by KOMO News.
DSHS told Inslee’s office that the move was geared toward focusing the hospital on its work with federal regulators to clear up long-running issues, Lee said. The agency assured the governor’s office that the withdrawal would not affect the safety of patients or quality of care, she said.
Bedeviled by staff shortages, a lack of bed space and security problems, Western State in June entered into an agreement with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make improvements and secure its federal certification.
The facility has been in jeopardy of losing that certification and tens of millions of dollars in annual federal funding.
Western State and federal officials are currently working through that 13-month plan and CMS agreed it was better to focus on that effort rather than accreditation, according to a statement from DSHS.
Once the hospital meets its federal certification “we will once again explore accreditation options,” Carla Reyes, assistant secretary for the DSHS Behavioral Health Administration, said in a statement.
Barbara Shelman, vice chair of Western State’s local union chapter of SEIU 1199 NW, said she learned only Monday of the withdrawal from accreditation.
Bill Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner and GOP candidate challenging Inslee for governor, criticized the revelation. In a statement Monday, Bryant described the failure to disclose the withdrawal from accreditation as “an inexcusable breach of the public trust and reveals he [Inslee] really is not capable of running the government.”
Monday’s developments came after DSHS announced on Friday that a judge had stopped a court commissioner’s order requiring a separate independent monitor for Western State.
Pierce County Court Commissioner Craig Adams had appointed a monitor in order to get patients moving more quickly through the hospital, which has wait times both for patients being admitted and discharged from the facility.