By MARTHA BELLISLE
SEATTLE — Washington state gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant stood behind a table holding 25,000 keys on Wednesday and called on Gov. Jay Inslee to release reports on staffing and other problems at the state’s largest psychiatric hospital.
The keys represented the number of master keys that corrections officials discovered were missing from Western State Hospital during a security review in response to the escape of two violent patients. The corrections report was made public last week by The Associated Press . It also revealed that thousands of tools used to open patient windows were unaccounted for and that management was unwilling to recognize that failing to focus on security puts patients and the public at risk.
Inslee’s campaign spokesman, Jamal Raad, said Bryant’s event Wednesday was a “desperate press stunt from a faltering campaign.”
Raad said the event was initially to be about education but the subject was switched to Western State Hospital.
“Bill Bryant today said that education was his top priority and the primary reason he’s running for governor. He had promised to release a plan by February and promised it again by April. But now he won’t commit to even releasing a education plan before the election,” Raad said in a statement.
Bryant, a Republican, criticized Inslee’s handling of a list of problems at the 800-bed facility, saying the Democrat responded too late in most cases and failed to be transparent about the hospital’s failings. Bryant said the public only learned about the problems from the media and accused Inslee of an “election-year cover-up.”
“This is 25,000 master keys,” Bryant said as he gestured toward the table. “25,000 master keys for a facility with 800 beds? That’s 31 master keys for every bed.”
The Department of Corrections report touches on the problems at the hospital, Bryant said.
“The extensive record of mismanagement now puts over $65 million of federal funding at risk,” he said.
Western State Hospital is at risk of losing federal funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid after a series of inspections dating back to 2015 discovered safety concerns. The Department of Social and Health Services entered into a 13-month improvement agreement with the federal agency in June that requires major changes in the way the hospital is run, or those federal funds will be cut.
Bryant demanded that the report created by a consultant appointed to help with this process be made public. He also wants Inslee to disclose information about staffing at the troubled hospital.
Bryant also called for any other reports “related to the structural weaknesses at Western State.”
Raad said the problems at the facility stem from services being gutted during the Great Recession.
“Under Governor Jay Inslee, we’ve stopped the disinvestment in mental health, and have built back much of the hospital’s capacity,” Raad said.