State argues mentally unwell sufferers should keep put at Patton state hospital regardless of COVID outbreak – Orange County Register
Ervin Longstreet stabbed a man in the neck at a rest stop between Barstow and Bakersfield in 2007. He claimed he had been fighting an alien inside himself for 10 years who was taking his DNA.
Aldo Hernandez went on a seven-hour rampage in the 1990s in which he fatally shot a man, wounded several others and shot a policeman. He claimed to be a representative of God with infinite powers to judge whether sinners should live or die.
And Charles Gluck and Graham Waldrop were charged with a lethal weapon attack that caused serious injury and attempted murder, respectively, but were found not guilty of madness in the trial.
All four men and one other patient now being held at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino have asked a federal judge – along with hundreds of other vulnerable patients who are at greatest risk of developing COVID-19 or COVID -19 to die – to set free. non-congregated bodies. An outbreak at the mental hospital so far has killed 14 patients, six in the last month, and infected hundreds of other patients and staff.
Officials at the California Department of State Hospitals insist that patients pose a potential hazard to the public and cannot be transferred to other facilities or released until they have undergone a series of hearings and / or legal proceedings that are suitable for them would determine such a step.
“The defendants are not aware of any court in the country – and the plaintiffs do not cite any – that orders the release and transfer of a class of committed and violent patients diagnosed with serious mental illness from the hospital to which a judge of the state court has made them obligatory treatment. According to a motion filed in the U.S. District Court in Riverside on Monday January 4th on behalf of Patton and the Department of State Hospitals, which operates Patton and four other state hospitals in Norwalk, Atascadero, Napa and Coalinga.
“Tinderbox of Infections”
Patient advocates say time is of the essence as more patients become infected and / or die from the virus. You have described Patton as “the tinderbox of infections”.
“We’re not asking for the gates to be opened and thrown into the community,” said Aaron Fischer, a California disability rights attorney and one of the lawyers representing the patients. Instead, he said, proponents just “want to get them into a safe and appropriate environment, operated by either DSH or any number of community-based service providers, and provide the resources necessary to continue receiving adequate care.”
Disability Rights California and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP are pushing to cut Patton’s patient population by nearly half.
“That means reducing the population in Patton by roughly 500 to allow for minimally adequate social distancing. This can be achieved through the use of DSH overflow facilities as well as temporary or permanent discharge or transfer to facilities where patients can live safely and continue to be cared for. Said Fischer.
Patton is currently treating 1,261 patients, according to state court records.
A telephone hearing on the motions is scheduled for Tuesday, January 12th at 2:00 p.m. at the US District Court in Riverside before Judge Jesus G. Bernal.
The DSH has asked the judge to postpone measures until hospital workers have been vaccinated, which could potentially stop or dramatically slow the spread of the virus and question patient concerns. However, the lawyers representing the patients say vaccinations are no guarantee that the virus will stop spreading and that Patton staff did not receive the two doses necessary for the vaccine to be fully effective until March.
Patton has the highest number of COVID-19 patient infections and deaths among any five state hospitals, according to state tracking data. 447 patients tested positive for the virus and 14 reported deaths on Thursday, Jan. 7. Coalinga State Hospital had the second highest number with 358 patients tested positive and 12 deaths, followed by Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk with 326 infections and 11 deaths.
Napa State Hospital has reported 11 deaths and 145 infected patients, and Atascadero State Hospital has reported 165 infected patients but no deaths.
Patients qualify for discharge
In December, the patients’ attorneys filed an urgency motion in Riverside federal court to obtain a court order for the immediate discharge or transfer of patients at highest risk and for Patton to implement major infection control measures.
Fischer said the state has already classified 272 high-risk patients, including Longstreet, as “clinically and forensically” eligible for discharge.
“They do not provide information on whether any of these patients have been released, and we understand that almost none of them have,” said Fischer. “The DSH considers 272 of our customers to be at high risk for serious COVID diseases, which they have determined that they do not have to be there. It is incomprehensible.
“DSH has sat on its hands when it comes to our customers. If the hospital were on fire, would DSH say patients have to wait until their annual court hearing? “Said Fischer. “Patton is on fire with COVID-19 right now and DSH is telling them to wait like these are normal times.”
Controversial hospital conditions
While plaintiffs’ attorneys claim the patients are crammed with 50 other people in single units and the hospital is not following federal cleanup protocol, the state claimed in a Jan. 4 motion that Patton had implemented “immediate and robust infection control measures.” To prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19.
The state has stopped admitting new patients to its hospitals and has developed a range of hospital-specific COVID-19 measures and distributed them to staff. It also began providing masks to patients daily and cleaning wipes upon request. Additionally, Patton has started offering daily antigen testing to healthcare workers. Most importantly, Patton has begun to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in “designated risk categories” upon request, as well as providing the vaccine to staff who come in direct contact with patients as requested by the state .
“In this real-time dispute, the defendant’s precautionary measures have exceeded the plaintiffs’ complaint to the point where the complaint may be open to discussion in a few weeks,” the motion said. “Continued vaccination of DSH against certain patients and health care workers who have direct contact with patients reduces the likelihood of harm to patients.”
“Tremendous risk” remains
In a statement filed in court on behalf of the patients, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a member of the Vaccine Leadership Group at the School of Medicine at UC San Francisco, said vaccinations “will not reduce the risk of COVID anywhere near an adequate level. 19 Infections for Employees and Patients ”in all state hospitals.
“If DSH continues its current approach and development, there is a significant risk that COVID-19 will spread further and overwhelm the DSH Patton patient population, resulting in many more deaths,” said Chin-Hong.
The crisis is exacerbated by the lack of intensive care beds in hospitals and the possible unavailability of acute care for high-risk patients.
“DSH’s failure to act swiftly and decisively now poses a risk to the local community as an already critical shortage of intensive care beds in the region continues to come under pressure,” Chin-Hong said in his statement. “Every day these patients stay in a Patton community without adequate social distancing carries an enormous risk of developing COVID-19, with serious and potentially fatal consequences.”