Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the suspect was back at ASH. Desmond Watkins remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail.
A female psychiatric technician at Atascadero State Hospital suffered a serious head injury and a broken facial bone Wednesday night after being beaten by a patient inside the facility.
The woman was attacked at 8 p.m. Wednesday, ASH officials confirmed. She was in moderate condition Friday.
The patient, Desmond Jovan Watkins, 34, was arrested the same evening on suspicion of committing two felonies — battery with serious injury and force likely to produce great bodily injury. He was booked into County Jail.
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The crimes that originally placed Watkins in prison and then at ASH were not disclosed. The victim’s name and the local hospital she was taken to also weren’t released by authorities Friday.
ASH didn’t alert the media to the incident until after inquiries were made.
Watkins previously threatened the victim, which prompted him to be placed in physical restraints at the hospital, ASH officials said. He was also designated for transfer back to a correctional facility before the attack, but the process takes several months.
The attack occurred when the employee removed one of Watkins’ restraints to help him use the restroom, according to a source close to the incident. Once one hand was free, he was able to severely beat the victim.
“The victim should never have been exposed to this patient,” Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said Friday.
Blakeslee has made several efforts over the past six years to improve safety at the hospital. The October 2010 strangling of Donna Gross, a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital, put the issue of safety at the state’s five mental hospitals in the spotlight.
The next bill Blakeslee plans to write would require transfer requests of violent inmates to be processed within days, not months, Blakeslee said.
“This is a critical safety loophole, and we’ll work to eliminate the red tape to get violent people out and back to corrections,” he added.
Blakeslee also said ASH director Jon DeMorales told him that he isn’t comfortable with transfers taking several months and would help Blakeslee determine strategies to “fast-track a bill that remedies this problem,” he said.
Recent statistics on patient violence at ASH weren’t available Friday. But there were 105 incidents in 2008, 135 incidents in 2009 and 100 such injuries reported through Sept. 11 in 2010.