Opinion: What is the real story behind opposition to proposed acute care psychiatric hospital?

Residents of South Hagginwood and surrounding neighborhoods in North Sacramento have been coming forward with many suggestions for articles since I joined Next Door’s South Hagginwood private social network. Stories which would not normally be seen on television news or written about in the local hard-copy newspaper but are being talked about by the residents of these North Sacramento neighborhoods have come to my attention. I want to share one of them here.

When I first heard about the concerns of several Woodlake residents over the proposed opening of a 120-bed acute care psychiatric hospital in their neighborhood, I came away with the impression that it had to do with the series of complaints at other facilities owned by the same corporation. Lola Acosta wrote, “Jeff, would you consider an article about Signature Healthcare Services which is proposing a 120 bed acute care psychiatric hospital near Woodlake? FYI, the LA times did 7 articles about them, but a digest or overview of these articles would be a public service, as well as a look-see of their hospitals in other states. I would appreciate know of your interest….http://articles.latimes.com/2009/aug/07/local/me-lasencinas7

A pattern of neglectful operation of multiple facilities in their corporate control soon emerged. The issues highlighted by the series of articles in the Los Angeles Times include unpaid overtime, inadequate staffing, lack of industry standard equipment, unsanitary conditions, lack of proper patient monitoring, and incomplete evaluations of patients.

Based on what I read, I started to form the view that there was something here which should be looked at in more detail prior to local government providing approval for the new hospital. Certainly, at a minimum, extra safeguards should be put into place to make sure what happened in the past at the other facilities did not happen here. The city should tie the issuing of an occupation permit and its renewal to a requirement that Signature Healthcare Services file and follow a plan to address the shortcomings in its operations listed above. Also a demerit system be established for incidents which occur at the facility. If the facility earns above a set number of demerits in a given time span, such as a six month calendar period, the facility would face non-renewal or suspension of its occupancy permit. A single major incident could trigger a revocation procedure of its occupation permit. The facility would have a staff person who would act as liaison with the neighborhood and would be a contact person for area residents to address any issues which develop.

Attempts to contact Signature Healthcare Services for comment were unsuccessful.

I spoke on the phone with Lola about the story. Talking with her and going over what her concerns were about the proposed facility produced an unexpected twist to the story. It seems that her primary concern and many of her neighbors was not the fact that a healthcare corporation with a bad track record of facility management wanted to open a new hospital in their neighborhood; the primary concern was that they wanted to open the facility in their neighborhood. Their concern and opposition would not be so intense if the facility location was moved to an industrial park area nearby.

This led me to a moment of enlightenment on this matter. What was happening was a case of NIMBY—Not in my Back Yard. There are several identified varieties of it with the closest applicable sub-type being SOBBY, an acronym for “Some Other Bugger’s Back Yard” and refers to the state of mind which argues that a particular project may be desirable and perhaps necessary – but only if it is placed somewhere else. Yet, this seems to almost but not entirely fit this situation. But I will leave what should be the correct acronym for the appropriate NIMBY sub-type to language experts.

I followed up with Lola prior to finishing this article and provided her the initial draft up to this point in the story. She responded that she did have serious concerns about the company opening a facility in any neighborhood based on its past track record of negligence in care and chronic under-staffing. I do believe she has these concerns like I have after reading the LA Times articles.

But what are we seem to be seeing here also is that individuals don’t want the peace of their tranquil neighborhoods upset by the construction of any acute care psychiatric hospital even if it was perfectly managed. The poor record of the corporation, as mentioned above, looking to open the facility is the fig leaf to make the opposition politically correct and respectable.



One comment

  1. […] Opinion: What is the real story behind opposition to proposed acute care psychiatric hospital?. […]

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