After months of frustration, the result of stalling and dishonest dealing by the Coalinga State Hospital ("CSH") administration, on February 24, 2006, approximately 80% of the patient population demonstrated on the hospital's main courtyard.
Although the demonstration remained peaceful and lasted for two hours, the many speakers voiced their complaints and called for various further types of action while the CSH police officers videotaped.
There were veiled threats of future violence by some, with the vast majority calling for peaceful remedies. An analogy was made comparing the patients' demands for their civil rights, along with respect and dignity, to the very same type of struggle done for black civil rights in the 1960s.
CSH opened in September of 2005, with promises to the patients that the problems would be fixed; that the new hospital was a "work in progress." Now, some five months later, the problems have not been fixed. In fact, most have not even been addressed. Proposals submitted by the Patient's Advisory Council (PAC) are either out right lost, or they are shuffled from one committee to another with no action ever being taken. What appears to be classical stalling tactics.
The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back occurred on February 21, 2006, when the administration changed telephone service providers, and then, covertly snuck onto each hospital unit, when the patients were out to lunch at the dining hall, and removed two of the four patient telephones.
Not only was the number of available telephones for patient use cut in half, but the phone numbers were also changed. There was no reference from the old numbers to the new numbers when friends or family members called the old numbers, thus leaving the patients and their families with no means of communications. Patients who attempted to place collect calls to their friends and families found a huge number of area codes and prefixes blocked by the new service provider. To make matters worse, the CSH administration appeared to not care.
When the verbal dam broke at the February 24, 2006, demonstration, many of the underlying problems were brought out into the open. Basic problems, such as, the telephones, hospital patients' visitors being subjected to screening and rejection by California Department of Corrections officers, and then further screened by hospital police. Many either being turned away or so traumatized as to discourage further attempts at visiting.
Problems with sleep deprivation due to a bright light being left on 24 hours per day in the patients' rooms. Privacy issues with the administration requiring all bathroom doors be left open when patients use the toilets.
Although these examples are just a few of the voiced complaints, they are indicative of the fundamental human rights being rode roughshod over by the hospital administration, that resulted in the demonstration.
How much taxpayer money is and will be wasted before these basic and easily solvable problems are adequately addressed? Will the patients be further pushed into a violent confrontation? Hopefully not. Will the taxpayers be forced to foot a multimillion-dollar legal bill for litigating these basic civil rights? Probably, unless the taxpayers call, write, fax, and e-mail the hospital administrators and their elected senate and assembly members to demand their tax dollars not be wasted; that the bureaucratic stalling cease and the problems be resolved.
Tom Watson February 24, 2006
Call, write, fax, e-mail:
Coalinga State Hospital
Coalinga State Hospital - By Tom Watson
Strike by Patients at Coalinga State Hospital Nets Promises of Change
Tom Watson Writings - Index
Three Strikes Legal - Index