Surging COVID outbreak at Patton State Hospital prompts demand for launch of sufferers – San Bernardino Solar
Lawyers urge Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino to take immediate action to reduce patient populations and improve safety protocols while 110 patients have been infected with a coronavirus outbreak in the past 10 days.
In an urgency motion filed in the U.S. District Court in Riverside on Monday, attorneys for the Sacramento-based nonprofit Disability Rights California and the law firm Covington & Burling requested a court order on behalf of four Patton patients to immediately discharge or transfer patients most at risk for COVID-19 to create safer non-congregated facilities and for Patton to take greater infection control measures.
Since July 10 patients have died of COVID-19 and at least 11 patients have had to be admitted to acute hospital. “Critical measures are now required,” said the application.
335 patients have viruses
Aaron J. Fischer, California disability litigation attorney, said Tuesday that more than half of Patton’s patients have conditions that are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. To date, 335 patients have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility, a barrier hospital for the mentally ill that has been committed by the courts, has 1,527 beds.
Many high-risk patients can be released to safer and less crowded environments, but remain trapped in a “tinderbox of infections” according to the motion.
For example, patient Ervin Longstreet, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who recently tested positive for COVID-19, has multiple medical comorbidities and was found discharged by Patton officials in September. Longstreet remains a patient in the hospital, however, and has since contracted the potentially fatal virus, according to the application.
Another high-risk patient who had severe breathing problems was one of the patients who had contracted the coronavirus in the past 10 days. He has now been hospitalized with breathing difficulties and has coughed blood, according to the movement.
Another patient, Ricardo Tapia – an eminent Marine veteran with a traumatic brain injury – described the hospital as a “ticking time bomb,” according to a press release from Disability Rights California. Tapia tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
Daily tests for employees
Ken August, a spokesman for the Department of State Hospitals, declined to comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday, December 15, but said in an email that Patton and all other state hospitals had been preparing since March and responded to the pandemic. And starting Wednesday, all state psychiatric hospitals will begin daily antigen testing by hospital staff who work in patient units.
In a counter-motion, also filed with the federal court on Monday, the state asked the judge to postpone the measures until the hospital workers were vaccinated.
“A stay is justified because the scientific evidence and decisions of key regulators about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine may be of vital importance in relation to the issue at stake in this move: whether plaintiffs are in constitutionally reasonable detention conditions in (Patton State Hospital) regardless of their potential individual risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 infection, ”the state-filed application stated.
On Monday, Pfizer’s long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out in hospitals and other areas of operation nationwide, including San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties. Health care workers are the first to receive the vaccine.
Disability Rights California filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the four patients in August alleging Patton and the state of failing to take precautions to protect patients from the coronavirus. As of December 7th, three of the four patients have contracted COVID-19.
Few precautions taken
The suit claims that patients are locked in individual residential units with 50 others, including a dining area, communal lounge, and some phones.
Patients claim the hospital failed to follow the federal cleaning protocol. The suit states that hospital staff will not routinely disinfect common surfaces, including tables, chairs, and phones, between patient uses. In addition, staff are constantly rotating through the units and do not regularly wear masks when interacting with patients.
Three experts have reviewed patient conditions in Patton and confirmed that “conditions in (Patton) pose a tremendous risk for COVID-19 transmission and mass outbreaks, and put plaintiffs at significant risk of serious illness or death,” it said Request.
However, the state denies these claims in its counter-motion submitted to the court on Monday.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the Department of State Hospitals had, according to the motion, “put in place strict infection control measures identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Health, and other state and local partners to prevent entry and Spread of COVID-19 in (Pattons) patient population. “
From March 23 to late May, Patton suspended hospitalization in response to COVID-19, banned in-person patient visits, and screened staff for COVID-19 symptoms, including measuring their temperatures and checking for viruses if there was any potential exposure. In addition, all staff are required to wear masks and masks have been provided and encouraged for patients to wear. As per the state’s request, social distancing measures have been implemented and patient activities have been changed.
Vaccine offers new hope
And now a vaccine is on the way.
“With accelerated research into a vaccine, Patton is now waiting to have his health workers vaccinated with an emergency-approved vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” the state said.
However, patient advocates claim Patton and the state failed to adequately protect patients against the coronavirus.
“For months, defendants have been claiming that Patton is reasonably safe for plaintiffs even though they keep plaintiffs in crowded, congregated environments where social distancing is impossible,” the urgency motion read, which also alleges defendants have failed to adequately assess high-risk patients to determine if they are eligible for release or transfer to another facility outside the community.
“These mistakes are responsible for the new deadly spike in COVID-19 infections in Patton,” the application said.
The judge at the US District Court Jesus G. Bernal is expected to set a date for the hearing in the next few days, said Fischer.