Union Raised Staffing Questions Before Murder at Hospital

Nov 22, 2012

The man killed at Eastern State Hospital early Tuesday morning died from strangulation according to the medical examiner.  The local union who represents the workers raised questions about staffing levels months before the man was killed.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner identified Duane Charley as the man killed at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake.  Fellow patient Amber Roberts was arrested by Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies, and is jailed for investigation of first-degree murder.

Both patients at the psychiatric hospital resided in the forensics unit, where people are evaluated after being committed by a judge during a criminal case.

The union who represents the hospital staff has raised concerns about low staff levels for more than a year.  Spokesperson Tim Welch with the Washington Federation of State Employees says they don’t know if staff levels was a contributing cause of the death, but it is an effort they continue to push for at both state-owned psychiatric hospitals.

Welch: “We have seen most prevalently in recent times… at Eastern State and Western State Hospital.”

At Eastern State in Medical Lake there are 700 budgeted staff members, and has about 290 beds.  Last May the local union held a rally urging for more staffing.  The then president Trevor Travers offered a somewhat haunting foreshadowing statement.  He said –quote- “we need safe staffing levels now before someone dies.”

Copyright 2012 Spokane Public Radio