Napa State Hospital gives rare peek inside

May 20, 2011 8:12:47 PM PDT
Napa State Hospital opened its doors to reporters Friday, a rare event that comes after a series of patient assaults. But the hospital and staff are worlds apart on the issue of security.

ABC7 saw flowers at the site where psych tech Donna Gross was murdered by a patient last fall. Workers say it is a constant reminder of how dangerous this hospital is.

But the tour did not take us to the secure treatment areas where the attacks are happening. And the camera was not allowed to shoot patients or staff.

Reporters were allowed however into what are called "open units," where patients are stable and may soon return to the community. The yelling of a patient was the only diversion from what appeared to be a carefully scripted tour.

Administrators say what reporters saw was a typical day. Hospital staff disagreed.

"They didn't let you see anything, do anything so you still don't get the feeling how dangerous it is to work here," psych tech Luz Hernandez said.

Last week, a patient nearly died after a brutal beating by his roommate. Workers say the assailant had a history of attacking other patients.

"They shouldn't have had him in the same ward with the rest of the patients there," the victim's brother, who only wanted to be identified as "Charlie," said.

Administrators have asked Sacramento for 10 more police officers, but they do not want them permanently stationed inside the forensics unit, which workers want. Instead, their plan is to increase patrols, which include psych techs.

They say this is not a prison but a treatment facility.

"We want increased presence, but we want to maintain that balance and use the very good skills of our staff and clinicians in intervening," Napa State Hospital Deputy Director Cindy Radavsky said.

Workers have told ABC7 they want predators segregated from other patients. The hospital says it does not have the money this year to do that. They are considering moving about 100 of the most violent patients to other state hospitals where security is better.


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