Union reps blast Maryland state psychiatric center, citing understaffing, neglected safety protocols

The Maryland union branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees criticized state officials for endangering staff at a maximum-security state psychiatric hospital for non-adherence to state staffing laws, leading to assaults on employees, local news source WYPR reported June 16. 

At a June 15 press conference organized by the union, Chris Yelen, a social worker at Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital in Jessup, Md., claimed to have been assaulted by patients twice while working at the hospital due to lack of required security staff.

At the conference, a security staff member said the hospital's maximum security wards usually have two officers and about 28 or 29 patients, a ratio of approximately one security attendant for every 14 or 15 patients — while the state law requires a ratio of one to three. At the same time, he said security staff is overworked due to lack of staff, leading to them working up to 16 hour days.

Atif Chaudhry, deputy secretary for operations for the Maryland Department of Health, disputed this account.

"MDH meets the 1:3 staffing ratio as required by law for security attendants at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center," he wrote in a statement emailed to WYPR. "As of 6/15, MDH has a staff of 97 security attendants for a facility that has a maximum capacity of 289 patients."

According to WYPR, union officials countered that the state ratio is misleading and would require all workers to report for 24 hour shifts.

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