Saturday, November 15, 2008

Urge C.S.H. Director Mayburg To Lift Computer Moratorium

Please write, email or call:
Stephen W. Mayberg, Ph. D.
Department of Mental Health
1600 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Tel: (916) 654-2309

Dear Mr. Mayberg,

Administrative Directive 654 established the ability for Residents of Coalinga State Hospital to purchase and possess personal laptop computers. Many individuals availed themselves of this opportunity by buying their own computers, and this subpopulation retains them to this day.

On February 28, 2007, an unsigned memo was published and circulated that placed a temporary "moratorium" on the further purchase of these items until details regarding their use were addressed. A few months later, the population of residents at C.S.H. were informed that the process had been taken over by Sacramento at the Departmental level, and that we would be advised as to consequent policies. In the ensuing months, there have been repeated attempts to obtain information regarding this process. To date, the response has been completely uninformative, though rumors abound.

This ongoing moratorium has created two groups of residents at this facility which cannot otherwise be distinguished one from the other. Some have had computers for around two years, while the rest are being prevented from purchasing their own. Even those who do have computers are finding it difficult to replace worn-out components or to obtain the software they need. Some originally opted to temporarily forgo purchasing needed software (intending to obtain such software later) in order to obtain the best computer for the money. Now however, they have their computers but not the software they need.

Legislators have been able to craft, vote upon, and signed into law major legislation during the same period of time that this so-called committee has been looking at what computers and peripherals might be allowed-twenty-one months!

We want to know why it is taking so long to develop a simple set of standards.

Any standard at which the committee arrives constitutes a shot at a moving target; computer technology changes every 18 months or so, and you've had 21 months to pull the trigger without any results. It appears to us that this committee, if it really does exist, is simply accomplishing through moratorium that which they cannot by other means achieve lawfully, not to say that an unsigned memo is lawful.

Why are we not being kept informed of its progress? We are, after all, the ones who are most interested in these decisions: residents of C.S.H., family members, and friends of the Residents. Remember, that taxpayers have made computer investments believing that D.M.H. would act in good faith. As people sense that they have been deceived there has been growing unrest. There are many who are contemplating legal remedies; while others clamor for more direct action. For all of us both inside and outside of C.S.H. the claim that this moratorium is "temporary" has become unreasonable.

It's time to end this phoney moratorium. Direct the people in your Department to do their jobs.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lawsuits target ventilation systems at Coalinga State Hospital

By Chris Collins / The Fresno Bee

The air conditioning and ventilation systems at Coalinga State Hospital are in disrepair and have endangered the health of the facility's patients, according to two recent lawsuits.

One suit says that dead birds were found in the ventilation system.

The lawsuits raise questions about California's newest mental health hospital, a $388 million facility that opened in 2005 and houses sexually violent predators.

The lawsuits, both filed by Santa Monica attorney David Feldman in September in Fresno County Superior Court, say the hospital's ventilation system does not allow clean air to circulate and hospital staffers have failed to conduct necessary inspections.

Hospital spokeswoman Deborah Ireland said Monday that she could not comment on the lawsuits.

In the first lawsuit, patient Dougal Samuels, a 55-year-old man with an unspecified mental disease, says he began coughing, losing his appetite and having chills in April 2006. Four months later, after his condition worsened, a hospital doctor diagnosed him with Valley fever.

Samuels was later diagnosed with pneumonia. X-rays showed a large black mass in his right lung area. The hospital scheduled an MRI, but one was never done, according to the lawsuit.

In April 2007, Samuels told staffers that he was in so much pain that he could not sit up. Two months later, an MRI at a hospital in San Luis Obispo showed that Samuels' spine was inflamed and was destroying his vertebrae, the lawsuit says.

Samuels needed immediate surgery. He had a disc removed and was put into a body cast.

The lawsuit says that Coalinga State Hospital knew that Valley fever could spread through its ventilation system but did not take necessary precautions.

The second lawsuit says that patient Kurt Parker, a 41-year-old man with an unspecified mental impairment, was one of two patients to contract a dangerous flu that had spread because the ventilation system was not properly maintained.
The lawsuit says that "dead birds were allowed to accumulate in the ventilation system, resulting in the spreading of bacteria."

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