ASH Watch

Patients restricted during search of Atascadero State Hospital

Unannounced procedure sought contraband and was not in response to any single event

newsroom@thetribunenews.comOctober 12, 2012 

Atascadero State Hospital

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Patients at Atascadero State Hospital were restricted to their rooms while officials conducted an annual facilitywide search for contraband.

During the search, conducted Thursday, the hospital’s visiting room was closed, and patients were only allowed to attend scheduled medical appointments, ASH spokesman Craig Dacus said in an email response.

The visiting room will resume its normal operating hours Saturday. 

The unannounced search started about 6:20 a.m. Thursday. ASH described it in a statement as “a routine procedure that is part of efforts to ensure safety and security for patients and staff.”

Dacus said the security drill did not constitute a lockdown. 

“The security drill was not in response to any single event,” Dacus said. “… Staff were allowed to leave the facility with supervisor approval.” 

However, Dacus did not respond to questions about how the patient restrictions during the drill were different from a lockdown, which limits activity within the facilities by keeping patients inside their sleeping and living units.

The search for contraband was not the only news coming from ASH this week.

Patients reportedly injured five employees in a string of aggressive incidents in which employees were spat on, suffered a bloody lip and had neck pain, according to a preliminary report from the facility.

The following incidents were reported in information that will be published regularly regarding violence at ASH, one of five state hospitals that treat mentally ill violent offenders from the court and prison system. 

In fiscal year 2011-12, the all-male facility cost the state nearly $223 million.

• At 8:15 a.m. Monday, a patient spat on two nursing employees as they were trying to calm him in a hallway and he became violent. No body substance exposure or injuries were reported, a hospital spokesman said. 

• At 3:30 p.m. that same day, two nursing staff were involved in an aggressive incident with a patient that resulted in the first employee suffering a bloody nose and lip as well as shoulder pain, while the second employee reported having neck and back pain, officials said. 

• At 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, a nursing employee received a bloody nose after a patient attack. “Nursing employee” could mean a psychiatric technician or a registered nurse. Staff names are not released, and job titles remain general in attack reports to protect the identity of employees, officials said.

Details of attack reports are preliminary and represent initial information hospital management still needs to investigate.

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