Psychiatric Hospital Complaints Probed : Santa Ana Facility Blames Several Incidents on Staff Shortages

Times Staff Writer

State officials have investigated a flurry of complaints about Santa Ana Psychiatric Hospital, and many of the problems have been blamed on staff shortages, according to reports filed with the state Department of Health Services.

The reports indicate that six formal complaints have been filed in the first five months of this year against the acute psychiatric hospital in east Santa Ana, compared to two complaints for all of 1987.

The problems stem, at least in part, from a lack of fully qualified staff, hospital administrator Donald Trisdale is quoted as saying in the health department records.

Trisdale was unavailable for comment Monday.

One complaint involved an incident on May 7 in which a female patient was reported missing and an empty bottle of Tylenol was found beside her bed, according to a report. The patient, who was believed to have taken the medicine missing from the bottle, was later found and given a tranquilizer without a complete check of her vital signs and physical condition, the report alleged.

Responding to a separate complaint, two registered nurses from the state health department reported that locked doors of a special intensive care unit were left open, allowing patients from an adult unit to have access to the lock-down area.

According to the nurses' report, Trisdale said he decided to leave the intensive care unit unlocked "due to a shortage of licensed nursing personnel."

With each complaint, the hospital staff either made immediate corrections or said they intended to, the reports said.

Linn Keese, a supervisor for the state health department office, said the complaints usually come from patients or their families, or from former and present employees, and are routinely investigated by surprise inspections conducted by registered nurses for the state.

Keese said the health department responded to the complaints as a routine practice, adding that the hospital, located in the 2200 block of East Fourth Street, is fully licensed and not under investigation or under "any more scrutiny than any other facility."

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