• Two attacks in one week worry Western State Hospital workers

    By: Shelby Miller

    Updated:

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Escalating violence at Western State Hospital has workers fearful for their lives. 

    Washington state Department of Social and Health Services said two assaults happened this week. The first assault happened Sunday and the second happened Wednesday. Both attacks sent workers to the hospital.

    “We’re just like putting the fox in the chicken coop, just waiting to be killed,” said Willie Saw. 

    Saw has been a nurse at Western State Hospital for nearly 26 years. He said nearly everyone has been attacked, including himself.

    “Somebody just hit me in the face,” he said.

    Sunday, Saw said he watched one of his employees get attacked by a patient because she wouldn’t change the television channel. He said the patient threw the worker to the ground and repeatedly kicked her in the face and head.

    “He followed her and attacked her. The next thing I saw, she was in a pool of blood,” he said. “I believe he intended to kill.”

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    Adolfo Capestany, DSHS senior director of communications, admitted the hospital is a tough place to work.

    “This is a place that treats a very unpredictable, difficult population. These are people that really need this treatment. They’re suffering from mental health issues,” he said. 

    On top of Sunday’s assault, Capestany said another attack happened Wednesday. KIRO 7 asked what the facility is doing to keep workers safe.

    “We’re going to look at the initial review of both of those instances to take a look at what exactly happened, how it happened, where it could’ve been prevented and we’ll go from there,” Capestany said.

    Western State has been plagued by problems for years. In June, it lost federal funding after an inspection uncovered health and safety violations. 

    Many workers said the facility is also understaffed. Capestany said it’s tough to find qualified people willing to do the job.

    Gov. Jay Inslee has asked for a full review of worker safety at the hospital and said he will work to make any needed changes. 

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