Costs of Western State Hospital reform continue to climb

SEATTLE — It’s a safety net in need of a rescue of its own.

Western State Hospital is Washington’s primary mental health facility and it’s woes are well-known, from lawsuits, to patient escapes, and staff and patient assaults.

But what about the fixes?

Right now Western is in week three of a major inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is poking and probing to see if the hospital deserves to keep $60 million a year in funding.

Early in the inspection process, Western was called out for fire safety issues, and now have to pay another company to keep watch.

The price isn’t known for that but two sources say it will also take millions to fix doors, hinges, and other fixtures to bring them properly up to code.

Another consultant group is getting $2.7 million to help Western get through the inspection.  The total cost to pass inspection is nearly $19 million.

Overtime hours are climbing as well. Internal reports provided to Q13 News show that hours reached 95,218 from January 1 to May 21, 2016.

This year over the same period, the number is now 108,664 hours of time-and-a-half.

Western says it's been on a hiring spree, which would be a huge help.

But two sources independently say a lot of salaries are going to middle management even as signing bonuses are dangling out there for nurses and psychiatry staff recruitment.

Western provided little comment about progress, only saying:

“We are still under survey status.  No updates.”

The budget standoff in Olympia is also complicating matters. Lawmakers can't get on the same page, so Western waits to see how much money it will get to keep successes going --

Or how long it may need to delay fixes, and risk a cutoff from the feds.

It’s unknown if this will be the final week of the federal inspection, but Western faces a July deadline to pass the survey.