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Home From the Hospital
It was a short trip to the Oregon State Hospital this morning, but it doesn't take long to see the challenges facing the place. The quick and - literally - dirty tour wanders through the wings that were condemned because they are dangerous. Long dark corridors, old furniture in odd places, paint peeling off in great sheets, parts of the ceiling in pieces on the floor.
It reminds me a bit of the pictures from Chernobyl. Like it was abandoned in a hurry.
The only actively used section I saw houses no patients - just the people managing the project to build a new replacement hospital across the street. That looked fairly up to date, clean, with linoleum floors and most ceiling tiles in place. These offices were part of a patient ward until just recently, but Linda Hammond, the administrator of the new building project, told me all the improvements were cosmetic. The crumbling infrastructure still dates from the 19th century.
I wasn't allowed to visit a ward with patients now - in part because there's a quarantine for norovirus, in part because there wasn't time to get all patients to sign a waiver agreeing to me walking in a ward. But here's a clue to one of the hospital's myriad problems: I showed a staff member a front page Oregonian story about a man who's apparently sane and has been trying to get out of the hospital for years. She knew his name right off - and lowered her voice to say, "I think he shouldn't be in here."
A news note: Governor Kulongoski today appointed a special master to oversee efforts to improve care at the hospital after last month's scathing Department of Justice assessment.
One more sidebar on the hospital's facilities - its phone lines, we discovered this morning, are not fully compatible with the equipment we use to connect with the show while we're on the road! We had intended to broadcast from the hospital itself; we raced to our studio in the capitol building about 30 minutes before the show. Apologies for any technical difficulties!
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