Psychiatrists fleeing Atascadero State Hospital

October 28, 2013

ash2Atascadero State Hospital is admitting fewer patients due to a shortage of psychiatrists. [Tribune]

A total of 22.5 psychiatrists are currently on staff, marking a 33.7 percent reduction since September 2012. Last month, ASH reduced the number of patients it admits each week from 24 to 15 and closed one of two units for patients deemed incompetent to stand trial.

“It’s spreading them thin. It’s not good for the treatment of the patients of the safety of the doctors,” said Dr. Stuart Bussey, president of the American Physicians and Dentists union.

Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montano attributes the psychiatrist attrition at ASH to a variety of factors, including an unpopular location and higher salaries elsewhere.

However, safety is also a concern at ASH. In November 2012, the California Division of Occupation Safety and Health fined ASH $27,000 for an ongoing pattern of patient assaults on employees. In 2012, the hospital averaged 10 employee injuries a month due to patient attacks.

An increase in violence at ASH occurred in January 2012 while the state was imposing a hiring freeze. Four attacks on employees occurred in one week that month. At the time, ASH had 30 active psychiatrists.

In August, the California Men’s Colony opened a new 50-bed mental health center. The Department of State Hospitals did not confirm whether ASH lost any psychiatrists to the new CMC facility.

“DSH-Atascadero is making every effort to recruit psychiatrists and anticipates lifting the suspension soon,” Montano told the Tribune.


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“It’s spreading them thin. It’s not good for the treatment of the patients of the safety of the doctors,” said Dr. Stuart Bussey, president of the American Physicians and Dentists union. Gee, that’s nice, Mr. Bussey that you are so concerned with the safety of the doctors. But while they do take a risk working in there it is actually the level of care staff that are in harm’s way everyday, 8 and sometimes 16 hours a day. When too few psychiatrists are attempting to treat too many patients they are spread thin. Often, they don’t know the patients and don’t listen to the floor staff who really know these guys. I have seen it time and again when arrogant doctors dismiss the staff’s concerns about a particular patient and the current medication regimen is not effective or the doctor discontinues their medication altogether, leaving an overtly psychotic and extremely dangerous patient for the staff to deal with while the doctor is off the floor actually spending little time with the patients. When we see behaviors increase we know it is most likely due to inadequate medicating. Happens all the time. This revolving door of psychiatrists needs to stop. We need doctors that are good at what they do, dedicated to working with this population, and that can actually develop a rapport with their patients. Continual moving of psychiatrists from unit to unit leaves patients at the whim of the next doctor that comes on board and thinks he has the ultimate medication regimen and leaves us all in a very dangerous situation then goes home for the weekend. Some of our best doctors are the one who have been there the longest. They know our guys and have honed their skill over time. Except for a few who never listen to staff, just come on a unit and will release a patient from restraints just so they do not have to be bothered in the middle of the night while on-call to come and do another late night assessment or be “bothered” for an updated restraint order via telephone.

A friend of a friend was a psychiatrist there. Making $250,000+ pumping irreparably broken dirt bags full of drugs.

then, how can they bail unless they are coming to take you away? ha ha ho ho to the funny farm…i’ll stop now

I would be curious to the source of information indicating $250K plus. Doesn’t sound right for a Psychiatrist.

My apologies. I did some research and it seems that $200K is about the starting point so someone there awhile could be well in excess of that. Seems like a horible waste of money to invest over $6million annually for the Psychiatrist let alone the rest of the support staff. Appears to me to be something else that should be contracted to private industry for more cost effectiveness and better results.

A total of 22.5 psychiatrists are currently on staff

So is that 1/2 psychiatrist missing the lower half? Or is it a right-side, left-side thing? >_>

Or maybe one of them is pretty half-ass at their job? Ain’t numbers great?

Im 1/2 qualified. Can I have the .5 position?

only for 125k a year

CALOSHA fined ASH $27,000.

And what purpose did that serve?

i throw my hat in the ring for hire on this one, and there are a few of you out there that should be brought on board as well