Staff at psychiatric hospital fear for their safety

SEATTLE (AP) — A patient with a history of violence was arrested after he punched a nurse, knocked her to the floor and repeatedly stomped on her head at a Washington state psychiatric hospital that recently lost accreditation and federal funding due to safety violations.

Staff at Western State Hospital say officials have mismanaged dangerous patients by moving them to less-secure wards instead of keeping them in the high-security forensic unit.

They also say that staffing shortages enhance the problem.

Court records say the nurse was with a patient watching television when a 19-year-old patient, Tommy Lee Berlin, walked in and wanted to change the channel. When nurse asked him to wait, he attacked her.

Nursing Supervisor Willie Saw said he repeatedly asked officials to move the patient off his ward because he was dangerous, but they did nothing.

Kelly Stowe, a spokeswoman with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, said they can’t speak about a specific patient.