All expansion at Western State psychiatric hospital ended over safety concerns

SEATTLE (AP) — The head of the Washington state health services agency said concerns about safety have led him to end all expansion at Western State Hospital until they can hire more staff at the psychiatric facility.

The hospital is under fire by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for failing to protect staff and patients. Federal officials have threatened to cut millions in funding if changes are not made.

Kevin Quigley, the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, sent a letter on Tuesday to hospital staff saying their inability to fill staff vacancies kept the facility from providing quality care and treatment.

He said the problem stems from a recent federal judge's order requiring the state to provide timely competency services to mentally ill defendants. He said they've tried to meet the court's deadline but now believes they can't safely achieve that goal.