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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eastern State Hospital passes review

Changes still sought at Medical Lake psychiatric facility

Eastern State Hospital has passed its latest review and will be recommended for reaccreditation by the The Joint Commission.

A final decision on the Medical Lake psychiatric hospital could be made as early as next month, said John Wiley, spokesman for the Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the hospital.

The accreditation agency suspended Eastern’s status in December – a month after one patient was accused of strangling another patient. While the commission’s decision stemmed from a routine inspection of the hospital, accreditation officials took the homicide into account.

Regardless of Eastern’s accreditation status, changes will be sought.

“Even if they gave us five gold stars, it wouldn’t change the assessment that … we need fundamental change in our institutions,” Kevin Quigley, Gov. Jay Inslee’s new appointee to lead DSHS, said in Spokane late last month. “The wheels are off” in the state hospitals, and reaccreditation is only the first step in a lengthy process to right the ship.

Patient Amber Ilene Roberts, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder in the patient strangling case.

At about 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 20, Roberts told an Eastern employee, “I murdered someone,” according to court documents. The employee found Duane Charley, 56, dead.

The Joint Commission’s report detailed items like a karaoke machine’s electrical cords, as well as other cords and patients’ belts, that were left unsecured and were hazardous to patient safety because they could be used for strangulation.

Wiley said the items were secured and the hospital submitted a report back to The Joint Commission within 72 hours of the accreditation suspension.

The Joint Commission conducted a follow-up survey on Jan. 31.

Wiley said the commission issued a letter saying the hospital met the criteria to pass the survey and the staff would recommend a level of accreditation contingent on the hospital continuing to pass additional reviews.

“It’s our expectation based on what The Joint Commission staff is telling us that we will go to that higher level of accreditation,” Wiley said.

In a meeting with Spokesman-Review editors last month, Quigley said safety and labor relations issues are priorities that need to be addressed at the state hospitals.

“They have huge challenges,” Quigley said. “I get that. But I think current circumstances (are) out of proportion to the challenges.”

Quigley, whose background is in business, said the state’s mental health budget is “way off the charts in the wrong direction.”

After less than a month on the job, Quigley has not made any major changes to administrative hospital staff.

Wiley said the hospital’s chief operating officer, Shirley Maike, is temporarily leading the institution while Chief Executive Officer Connie Wilmot is on a planned leave.

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