Governor vetoes parts of bill to aid psychiatric hospital

SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed several sections of a bill aimed at improving operations at Western State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that Inslee signed Senate Bill 6656 into law last week but vetoed parts of it, including a portion that would have allowed psychiatric nurses with advanced degrees to fill open psychiatrist positions at the hospital.

Another veto blocked an effort to reduce use of state psychiatric facilities by using financial incentives.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Andy Hill, a Republican from Redmond, said Inslee vetoed the most important reforms in the proposal.

"Patients expect and deserve better care, employees expect and deserve safer working conditions, and the general public needs to know their tax dollars go toward actual treatment and quality care," Hill said in a statement. "We cannot continue to throw taxpayer dollars at the problem without changes to what is ultimately a system and management failure."

Western State Hospital is in danger of losing federal funding after inspectors found the hospital was unsafe. Inslee fired the hospital's chief executive officer in mid-April after two patients escaped from the facility.

The bill as signed into law will create a committee to recommend improvements for the hospital, and creates a fund that seeks to improve the hospital operations, safety and more. It also requires the hospital to house at least 30 geriatric or long-term-care patients elsewhere in an effort to free up staff. Retaining employees and hiring new staff has been an issue at Western State Hospital.

"I think this is an important effort to utilize the facility most efficiently," Inslee said.