Topeka Low pay, long hours, dangerous working conditions and Gov. Sam Brownback's voluntary retirement incentive program for state employees have led to major staffing problems at state hospitals, a report aired Friday said.
"We need to keep reviewing what is happening," said state Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Cummings. "I hope the governor gets the message," he said.
The House Appropriations Committee was briefed by legislative staff on issues at state hospitals in preparation for the budget battle awaiting legislators when the session reconvenes Wednesday.
The report said Larned State Hospital, which houses the sexual predator treatment program, is so under-staffed that it could lose accreditation from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which would mean the loss of $14.5 million in federal funds to the state.
The current vacancy rate for physicians is 45.8 percent; registered nurses, 27 percent; and licensed practical nurses, 44 percent.
Pay for physicians and nurses is below what is being paid in surrounding areas, the report said. Meanwhile, to cope with the high job vacancy rate, overtime wages at Larned increased 723 percent from February 2011 to last February.
Last fall, Osawatomie State Hospital and Rainbow Mental Health Facility lost 20 employees due to the voluntary retirement program and were allowed to fill two of the vacated positions. Both hospitals have struggled to hire and keep nurses because salaries are not competitive.
Parsons State Hospital lost 18 positions due to the retirement program and has kept open 31 more positions in the face of state budget constraints. Meanwhile, the Parsons State Hospital overtime rate has jumped 114 percent.
The hospitals all report that low salary and long hours are making it difficult to recruit and retain staff.
Osawatomie and Rainbow report that 11 staff members are off work because of work-related injuries, and they have 12 mental health technician vacancies.
Last year, the Brownback administration launched an early retirement program, offering health insurance benefits and one-time payment incentives to reduce the state's workforce. The administration said more than 1,000 employees took advantage of the program and that it would save $34.5 million over two years.