An advocacy group representing people with disabilities reached a settlement with administrators of the California Department of State Hospitals and Patton State Hospital on a lawsuit alleging that patients were diagnosed during a COVID-19 outbreak at that facility last year Year were not adequately protected.
California disability attorneys, a Sacramento-based advocacy group, sued the division that operates the state’s five forensic psychiatric hospitals last August. The defendants were named California Department of State Hospitals Director Stephanie Clendenin and Patton Hospital Executive Director Janine Wallace.
The parties reached an agreement in June. The agreement lays down measures to protect patients, such as: Lots of which have already been implemented.
“The Department of State Hospitals’ number one priority is the safety of its patients and staff,” said Ken August, a spokesman for the Department of State Hospitals. “In response to COVID-19, DSH has taken many steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
August said the department started giving vaccines to patients and staff in December.
The Department of State Hospitals reported that 4,549 patients had received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine as of Wednesday. The department’s patient population is changing, but records of patient numbers over the past decade show that between 5,000 and 6,000 patients are treated at the five hospitals each year.
August said patient numbers fell during the pandemic due to a temporary cessation of admitting new patients that has since been lifted. August also said the department was using a facility in Norwalk to provide additional quarantine space for patients stationed in Patton, near the town of San Bernardino.
In addition, the department said it will continue to provide mental health support for patients grieving due to COVID-19. The department observed a minute’s silence in February and plans to create a nationwide healing blanket and offer patients a special meal.
The department agreed to pay $ 75,000 for the plaintiff’s legal fees.She did not admit any wrongdoing in connection with the claims made in the lawsuit.
Patton State Hospital has more than 1,500 beds for the most likely patients incarcerated for being found mentally incapacitated or not guilty of madness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven particularly dangerous in environments such as prisons, jails, and hospitals, where social distancing is limited and facilities are shared by large numbers of people. For example, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which operates the state’s prisons, has nearly 50,000 incarcerated people test positive for the virus, 227 of whom have died to date. The department reported that approximately 100,000 inmates were in custody as of June.
The Department of State Hospitals reported that among the five hospitals, 1,906 patients tested positive as of May 2020. At least 55 people have died. However, this count is not accurate because the department does not publish exact numbers for deathswhen the number of deaths is less than 11. Coalinga and Patton hospitals had the most deaths from the pandemic at 21 and 19 respectively.
About 2,055 hospital employees have tested positive since March 2020, and the department has not reported any employee deaths.
Plaintiff’s attorneys alleged that the design of the Patton facility increased the risk of the virus for patients because it was structured to encourage social interaction as part of its treatment program. The lawyers also claimed that some patients at the facility were particularly susceptible to the virus because of their age and previous illnesses.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, August said extensive protective measures had been taken. Hospital visits were suspended, the wearing of masks was compulsory, and employees were given medical examinations every working day.
Patients were tested if they showed symptoms or were believedhave beenexposed.
“These actions and others of [the department] are part of an ongoing process that is continually being improved and empowered with guidance from the California Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other state and local partners, “August wrote in response to The Desert Sun’s questions last year.
Meanwhile, Disability Rights California claimed that the number of patients contracting the virus would increase dramatically if hospitals did not reduce their patient population by looking for alternative locations for patient treatment. The advocacy group identified in court documents five patients suffering from conditions that made them susceptible to the virus, such as lung and coronary artery disease, diabetes, and others.
The group did not have access to hospital records and believed that about half of the patient population had similar risk factors.
Under the settlement agreement, the department will publish virus statistics such as positive cases and vaccines administered by the end of the year.
Desert Sun reporter Christopher Damien covers public safety and the criminal justice system. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him at @chris_a_damien.