DSHS admits Western State hasn’t been accredited for months

Western State

LAKEWOOD, Wash -- For more than three months, web postings, fact sheets and job listings for Western State Hospital claimed it was “fully accredited,” giving the public a confident seal of approval.

The KOMO Investigators confirmed Western has not been accredited at all since late May and left many highly-placed staff completely in the dark.

“No (expletive) way was this known,” said one upper level instructor at the Department of Social and Health Services.

Multiple staff members expressed shock and concern that DSHS and Western leadership didn’t properly communicate the lack of accreditation for months.

That accreditation is done through The Joint Commission, an Illinois-based organization that surveys and judges medical providers on quality of care. Its goal is to help improve the quality of hospitals and healthcare businesses with rigorous standards with “gold” ratings.

The agency confirmed that Western State Hospital voluntarily withdrew from the accreditation on May 24, 2016.

That decision was not communicated to all staff and was not changed on many, if any, mentions online or in job listings for employees.

The admission by DSHS on Monday comes after the KOMO Investigators began asking questions about the accreditation last Friday.

Early Monday morning, the department sent a staff-wide email admitting to the move, saying “We thought this information had been shared via the electronic bulletin board, but it wasn’t found after doing a preliminary search of the site. “

DSHS immediately began scrubbing and changing online listings about the accreditation Monday.

Nurses and doctors inside the hospital have already started to express disappointment and frustration about the information being hidden. “Nobody would want to work in a facility that is not accredited, but they lie to new employees about that,” said one worker.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office was aware of the voluntary decision. Inslee’s office confirmed that DSHS briefed staff about backing out of accreditation in May, saying it “would not impact safety and security of patients, billing or their ability to hire staff.”

Western State has been under fire for more than a year for training issues, hiring problems, safety issues and overall quality of care. In June the hospital entered into a structured reform systems improvement agreement with the federal government.

The accreditation withdrawal appears to have played a role.

“DSHS made the decision to forego the accreditation to focus on their work with federal regulators,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Assistant Secretary for DSHS Behavioral Health Administration Carla Reyes said once the improvement agreement is complete and the hospital is fully-functioning, “we will once again explore accreditation options.”

"We don’t believe that lack of accreditation will jeopardize the care, safety and security our patients," she said later in a statement. She acknowledged that the staff hadn't been fully informed and that website and hiring information hadn't been updated.

"This was an unintentional oversight which the hospital has moved immediately to correct."

Eastern State Hospital outside of Spokane does remain accredited with the Joint Commission.

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