State cuts 13 contract psychiatrists at Atascadero State Hospital

Thirteen contract psychiatrists have been terminated from Atascadero State Hospital, Department of Mental Health officials confirmed.

The move is part of the department’s restructuring to cut 600 positions statewide, some of which are already vacant, affecting about 300 people, department Chief Deputy Director Kathy Gaither said.

Attrition and moves within the departmental will occur before layoffs, Gaither said. Layoffs would then be determined by seniority, she added.

ASH now has one state-employed psychiatrist on each of its 30 treatment units and a pool of 10 psychiatrists for back-up.

Being assigned to one unit is helpful for employees to recognize specific patient patterns, officials said, instead of having various contract employees float to different units overtime.

But the Union of American Physicians and Dentists opposes the terminations, saying that a smaller treatment staff could mean the quality of care and safety would decline.