It’s not unusual to hear patients screaming and crying at Western State Hospital, workers say. But lately, they say it’s been worse than normal at the massive psychiatric facility just south of Tacoma, Washington.
Since COVID-19 hit the hospital a month ago, its Victorian-era buildings have felt “eerie” and “strange,” according to workers.
The art room is empty, group therapy is canceled and patients eat alone in the cafeteria. A skeleton staff cares for more than 700 patients battling illnesses that range from schizophrenia to suicidal depression. Older patients are not so much quarantined as stranded, unwilling or unable to get up from their hard plastic beds without help, workers say. Other, younger patients are free to roam the halls with no masks.
Thirty-four patients and staffers have tested positive at Western State since the outbreak began, and one patient has died. The hospital says conditions have improved, with few