An inpatient psychiatric hospital found to be in violation of health and safety rules has been shut down by the state and has had its license...

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TACOMA — An inpatient psychiatric hospital found to be in violation of health and safety rules has been shut down by the state and has had its license suspended.

Puget Sound Behavioral Health, owned by Pierce County and serving about 1,200 people each year, must have all patients transferred to other hospitals by Jan. 20 under a state order issued Wednesday. New admissions have been suspended.

“We think there is a real danger there,” said Gary Bennett, head of facility licensing at the state Health Department.

It is unclear where the 29 patients currently at the facility will go, although Western State Hospital in nearby Steilacoom is a possibility.

For many, the move would be “very disruptive,” said Fran Lewis, an administrator at the psychiatric hospital that opened in 2000.

Hospital officials hope negotiations will help bring the facility into compliance before the Jan. 20 deadline, she said.

The facility could permanently lose its operating license if operators can’t convince the state they’re making headway on the problems. The findings also jeopardize federal funding, which makes up at least 25 percent of the hospital’s budget.

“We have much work to do,” Lewis told staff in a Monday e-mail announcing the inspection results.

Responding to three complaints, inspectors last Friday found key positions, including medical director, vacant. The chief of inpatient services quit Monday. Inspectors also found the hospital lacked adequate staffing to care for and manage patients, and many shifts had no nursing supervision.

“What we saw was, in summary, a very serious shortage of staff, leading to all kinds of other problems,” Bennett said. “There’s problems in properly controlling patients, overseeing medication, coordinating treatment and nutritional care,” he added.

The state gave few details, but one patient had to be subdued by police using an electronic stun gun, and an employee suffered head injuries after being attacked by another patient, Bennett said.

Special diets also were not being administered at the hospital, Bennett said, noting that staple foods included bologna and white bread, with little fruit and vegetables.

“It’s not the kind of diet you would expect in a health-care facility,” he said.