4 nursing employees hurt at Atascadero State Hospital in the past week

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJanuary 25, 2013 

Atascadero State Hospital

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Four nursing employees at Atascadero State Hospital were hurt during aggressive incidents with patients since last week, according to a preliminary report from the mental facility.

At 7 a.m. Jan. 18, an employee sustained swelling after a patient attack. Two hours later, another employee “sustained superficial injuries” in a similar incident, spokesman Craig Dacus said.

At 9:30 a.m. Jan. 23, an employee was scratched; later that morning, another employee suffered scrapes and bruises after an attack.

The injuries sum up the latest batch of attack reports from the forensic hospital that treats mentally ill and violent men who committed or were accused of crimes.

Employee safety took a new focus last year when a state agency fined the maximum-security facility twice for unsafe working conditions.

State investigators found that an average of 10 staff injuries from patient attacks occurred per month from January to September 2012.

The Tribune regularly publishes the facility's preliminary attack reports to provide a snapshot of the daily violence that occurs at ASH.

The latest round of attacks brings its injured employee count to nearly a dozen so far this year.

All but one of the incidents this month involved nursing employees, which could be a nurse or a psychiatric technician. Those details are kept general by the hospital to protect employees’ privacy.

Psychiatric technicians, commonly known psych techs, have been involved with much of the violence at ASH in previous years as they work with patients 24 hours a day to provide nursing and therapeutic services for the mentally ill.

In the first three weeks of January, six employees and one police officer were hurt in aggressive incidents with patients. Those acts resulted in injuries ranging from bruises to a cut to the head.

Each preliminary report will be investigated further by the hospital, Dacus said.

ASH has been working with state investigators on streamlining its procedures and training to help protect its workers, hospital administrators said late last year.

The hospital was fined for not meeting certain safety standards such as always using the buddy system and effective alarm systems, having security personnel present and ensuring the availability of sufficient trained staff on all shifts.

The state is rolling out a new alarm system at each of its five mental hospitals. ASH is slated to get them early next year.

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