Mental hospital attack spurs alarm policy change

Photo of the Napa State Hospital's main sign. Workers in the criminal patient ward will be required to wear alarm-equipped lanyards beginning Tuesday.
Photo of the Napa State Hospital's main sign. Workers in the criminal patient ward will be required to wear alarm-equipped lanyards beginning Tuesday. Lisle Bloomer/Flickr/Creative Commons

High-tech tracking and alarm devices for employees of a California mental hospital where a worker was strangled can now be worn on a belt-loop clip rather than a lanyard around the neck.

Napa State Hospital officials made the announcement on Thursday, one day after a patient attempted to choke an employee by grabbing the lanyard holding the new alarm.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a patient punched a worker in the face before pulling the lanyard from behind in an attempt to choke the employee.

The employee managed to activate the WiFi-enabled device during the Wednesday night scuffle, the Times reported.

The incident highlighted what employees called a flawed design because the lanyards pose a choking hazard.

"I carried it in my hand, showed it to them and put it around my waist," psychiatrist Nader Wassef told the Times. "I told them, 'Take my name down and report me.' I can lose my job, but I'm not going to lose my life."

He said lanyards, ties, earrings and other items that could put staff in danger were banned from his previous workplace.

A patient strangled 54-year-old psychiatric technician Donna Gross nearly two years ago. The hospital was fined more than $100,000 for safety violations that contributed to Gross' death, including flawed alarm systems.

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