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Napa State Hospital Fined $100K In Cal OSHA Probe

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Napa State Hospital Entrance (California Department of Mental Health website)

The entrance to Napa State Hospital. (California Department of Mental Health)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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NAPA (CBS / AP) — California workplace regulators have fined Napa State Hospital more than $100,000 for safety violations the agency says it uncovered in its probe of a psychiatric nurse’s slaying.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued six citations against the hospital on Tuesday, following an investigation into the October strangling of Donna Gross, 54.

Authorities have charged patient Jess Massey, 37, with the killing. He has pleaded not guilty.

Cal-OSHA investigators found that factors in the fatality included flawed alarm systems, inadequate police presence and no enforcement of existing safety policies and procedures.

The union that represents doctors who work at the hospital, the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, said it was “pleased that OSHA has issued these fines against the Department of Mental Health, but frankly, it’s not enough.”

The amount of the fine “is peanuts compared to a life,” union president Stuart Bussey said in the statement.

The hospital has 15 days to appeal. The state Department of Mental Health, which oversees the hospital, said it would appeal the citations and that it was working to improve safety at the hospital.

The citations come after two California lawmakers decried safety conditions at state-run mental hospitals and urged Gov. Jerry Brown to push for immediate improvements to the security situation at the facilities.

State Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblyman Michael Allen, in a letter dated Tuesday, called the level of violence at Napa State Hospital and others “unacceptable.”

They represent the districts that include the Napa hospital, where authorities said a patient died Monday while being subdued after a fight.

Another Napa patient is accused of trying to rape a nurse last month. Last year, one Napa worker was slain and another beaten unconscious. Patients face criminal charges in both cases.

The lawmakers said 80 percent of patients at the state’s mental hospitals arrive via the criminal justice system. They called on state mental health officials to update security practices accordingly.

“It is time we have laws, regulations and on-site practices employed that reflect this new reality for our state hospitals that is a far cry from the mission when Napa State Hospital was built more than 137 years ago,” they wrote.

Sheriff’s officials said William Roebling, 47, died Monday in a secure ward at the 1,300-patient Napa facility after attacking another inmate, prompting staff to try to subdue him.

The cause of his death was not known. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

Napa workers have protested what they call the slow pace of reform at the hospital. Recommended changes from the meeting where they protested included better training for staff and counseling for patients who are victims of violence and better education of judges to reduce admissions to state mental hospitals.

Workers have asked for better alarm systems, more security, fenced-off areas, increased staffing and other changes.

Massey, 37, pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery after Gross was strangled in October and her money and jewelry were stolen. Her body was found on an outside patio at the hospital.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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