The CEO of Western State hospital in Washington state says she is being forced to admit a patient before others that have been on a waiting list to enter the state's largest psychiatric hospital.
A state court commissioner Friday told Cheryl Strange that if she rejects the order, she must report to jail on Wednesday.
Strange told The Seattle Times she doesn't plan to admit the patient. In a written statement, she said she has the authority to bump people up on the waitlist at the 800-bed hospital in Lakewood, but she didn't believe "this stable patient" rises to a level.
"Today's ruling places the hospital in a catch-22: We are held in contempt because we don't have the staff needed to provide an appropriate level of care, and we have patients who have completed treatment and [are] waiting to get out of the hospital but there is a lack of support services and stable places for them to live," Strange said.
The patient was ordered detained in April for 14 days and again in May for 90 days, but was never admitted to Western because of lack of beds. Instead, that person was given a bed in a general hospital under what's known as "single-bed certification."
In 2014, the state Supreme Court ruled the practice, also known as "psychiatric boarding," was unlawful. The justices said it is unconstitutional to detain and hold mentally ill patients in emergency rooms and hospitals without providing proper treatment.
Washington has been using "single bed certifications" as a way to temporarily hold involuntarily committed people in hospitals that aren't certified to evaluate or treat their mental illness.
The state Legislature has since made the practice legal under certain circumstances. But Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams said state law doesn't allow a patient to be boarded in a hospital for more than one 30-day stay.
"To leave anyone stranded in a single-bed certification is a disservice and a violation of their constitutional rights," Adams said.
Strange was named CEO of Western State Hospital in April. Gov. Jay Inslee fired her predecessor Ron Adler after a man who had been charged with murder and another patient escaped from the facility. They were later captured. The escape was the latest in a litany of problems at the hospital. U.S. regulators have repeatedly cited the facility over safety concerns and threatened to cut millions in federal funding.