A showdown may be looming over the cost of hospital care on the Oregon ballot next year. A union that represents health care workers filed five initiative petitions Monday that could set up a costly election battle next year.

KUOW/John Ryan

A new report says violence is a “constant disruption” at Washington state’s two main psychiatric hospitals. But the CEO of the state’s biggest mental hospital isn't sold on some of the findings.

Vaughn Bullfinch

For decades, rural parts of the Northwest have found it difficult to lure doctors to small towns. Community leaders in Yakima, WA went so far as to found a small medical school to train doctors to practice in these underserved areas. The Pacific Northwest University opened in 2006. But there is a problem. Small towns throughout the region just don’t have enough residency programs. And that means many of these doctors-in-training may move away. 

John Ryan

About 30 times a year, a surgery patient in Washington state has a sponge or surgical instrument left inside them. It’s one of the most commonly reported medical mistakes.

The former Oregon State Hospital superintendent who allowed the filming of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ has died.

Dean Brooks had a small role in the 1975 movie, filmed on location in Salem. The film won the Oscar for best picture.

John Ryan / Northwest News Network

The Tea Party has become a fixture in American politics. But the Sanka Party? Not so much. Other than an interest in hot beverages, the two activist groups have little in common. The Sanka Party got started last summer near Tacoma, Wash., in the unlikeliest of places: inside the walls of the state’s largest psychiatric institution.

Photo by John Ryan / Northwest News Network

One Washington state senator says it is past time for lawmakers to increase safety at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals. Paige Browning reports Senator Mike Carrell announced he will propose legislation in the coming term.

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.

A patient was found dead early Tuesday at a psychiatric hospital in eastern Washington, leading to the arrest of patient in the same unit. The woman in custody is suspected of murder.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

A 130-year-old mental institution might seem like an odd place for a museum. But historians and mental health advocates have fought to preserve and tell the Oregon State Hospital's long and sordid history.

Photo courtesy Dept. of Health and Human Services

About one out of five Medicare patients returns to the hospital within a month after being discharged. Those readmissions are often preventable. As Ruby de Luna reports, starting in October, Medicare will penalize hospitals with high readmission rates.

The new policy is part of the national health care law to reduce hospital readmissions. The goal is to reduce cost and improve patient care.

Dr. Nancy Fisher is Chief Medical Officer with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for Region 10. She says three-quarters of these readmissions are preventable.

Photo by John Ryan / Northwest News Network

Western State Hospital, near Tacoma, is the largest psychiatric institution in the Pacific Northwest. Its mission statement says the hospital--

Actor: "provides a healing environment free from danger, fear, hurt, injury, coercion, or intimidation for people with psychiatric disabilities. … Through vigilant attention and effort, WSH ensures a safe haven."

One week in April, Western failed to live up to those words, and the consequences were dire. Attention was less than vigilant, and two patients wound up dead. In part one of our public radio investigation, KUOW's John Ryan reported on the case of one of those patients. She committed suicide. In part two of our investigation, John looks at the safety improvements Western has, and hasn't, made since April.

It happens more than 200,000 times a year in doctor’s offices throughout Washington. An interpreter is called in to help bridge a language barrier between the physician and patient. Soon though, that interpreter may join the appointment by phone or even video. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins explains.

Western State Hospital CEO Resigns

Jun 14, 2012

The head of Washington's largest psychiatric hospital is stepping down. Western State Hospital CEO Jess Jamieson announced his resignation to hospital staff Tuesday. The announcement came as the Tacoma-area hospital deals with the aftermath of two patients' violent deaths in April. KUOW's John Ryan has the story.

Violence On The Rise At Western State Hospital

May 3, 2012

Three employees at Western State Hospital near Tacoma were attacked by a patient Wednesday morning. Officials say the three were taken to the emergency room but could not provide more details.

Western State Hospital is Washington's most violent workplace. 335 assaults were reported there in the past 12 months. That’s a slight increase from the year before but lower than prior years.

One nurse at Western told John Ryan what it's like to become a statistic.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon State Hospital is just weeks away from opening the final wing on its newly updated Salem facility. But many of the beds will remain empty because of budget cuts pending in the Oregon legislature. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

Photo by John Ryan / KUOW

SEATTLE, Wash. -- A bill aimed at improving the safety of workers in mental hospitals passed the Washington state senate on Monday. KUOW's John Ryan reports from Seattle.