Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011-03-29 "Union Workers Protest at Napa State Hospital: As state Department of Mental Health officials held a "Safety Summit" inside, employee unions protested at the gates of the hospital where one staffer was murdered last fall and many have been assaulted" by Louisa Hufstader from "the Patch" news journal
Napa State Hospital employees and union representatives staged a protest at the hospital entrance Monday, the same day the state Department of Mental Health was scheduled to hold a “Safety Summit” on the hospital grounds.
Protesters carried signs and chanted “What do we want? Safety!” as they marched back and forth in front of the hospital driveway and across the Napa-Vallejo Highway, occasionally saluted by a horn blast of solidarity from a passing truck or car.
Hospital employees have become increasingly outspoken about conditions at the state institution in south Napa since employee Donna Gross was strangled to death there last October, allegedly by a patient who stole her cigarettes and pocket money. Her accused killer, Jess Massey, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in the Napa County jail.
Gross's murder was followed in December by the brutal beating of therapist George Anderson by patient Sean Bouchie, who was subsequently found incompetent to stand trial and returned to the hospital.
Another Napa State patient was jailed for the attempted rape of a female hospital staffer earlier this month and is being evaluated to see if he is competent to stand trial.
Monday’s rally included a series of short speeches from union officials and Napa State employees, several of whom evoked the specter of Gross’s violent death and complained that officials were taking no action to make the hospital safer.
“Why are they having another meeting five months after Donna Gross was murdered?” asked social worker Corinne Weaver.
“Every single union was invited to attend this meeting today and you know what we said? ‘No. We’re tired of hearing you talk. We want to see results,’” Weaver continued.
Connie Steele, who works in the medical billing department at the hospital, said she has been threatened when her work brings her into the wards where “forensic” patients have been sent by the courts after committing violent crimes.
Several speakers cited a daily assault rate of three staffers and seven patients at the embattled hospital, which has seen its forensic population rise sharply in recent years.
Maj Yazidi, a 30-year Napa State employee and Napa resident, said workers need to take more action, including rotating sick-outs at the hospital and sit-ins at the Napa offices of state legislators.
"We have to do it at the local level, so the people who live in this community of Napa ... feel that their colleagies, their neighbors are being threatened by violence every day," Yazidi said.
For more from Monday’s rally, including excerpts from speeches by Weaver, Steele and Napa State recreation therapist Zach Hatton and Weaver's complete remarks, watch the videos in our gallery.

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