State hospital workers remember death of colleague

October 24, 2012 12:30:14 AM PDT
It's been exactly two years since a mental patient murdered a Napa State Hospital employee. It was a tragedy that compelled administrators to improve safety at the hospital. Employees are still fighting for more.

Two years ago, Napa State Hospital psych technician Donna Gross was strangled to death by a patient Jess Massey in the courtyard of the hospital.

"And we would raise the issue and raise the issue until Donna's murder we didn't get any sort of resolve," Zach Hatton, chief steward of one of the hospital unions, said.

Since then, there have been major safety improvements including alarm devices that instantly send out an employee's exact location. Twelve new psych technicians and 13 hospital police officers have also been hired.

"We are working openly and honestly together to identify the problems that we have and develop plans of correction for those problems," Napa State Hospital Executive Director Dolly Matteucci said.

Despite the changes hospital employees say they're still fighting for more improvements.

"We still have a long ways to go; we still have too many assaults," psych tech Linda Monahan said.

Hospital employee unions want police officers to be armed with more than a baton and pepper spray.

"I think they should be armed; I mean, we've had escapes recently from custody," Hatton said.

"At this time there is not a move toward arming out police officers," Matteucci said.

The coalition of five unions are also asking for specialty units for violently ill patients and they say they'll continue fighting for these improvements in honor of Gross.


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