- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State hospitals in Kansas face persistent staffing shortages, and one facility recently posted a 40 percent staff vacancy rate, according to the agency that oversees the facilities.

Data provided this past week by the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services demonstrate continued staffing shortfalls at the state hospitals, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1F3Ys9d ).

Osawatomie State Hospital has a nearly 40 percent staff vacancy rate, according to KDADS. The hospital, which is supposed to have 501 full-time positions, currently has 189 of those positions vacant. Larned State Hospital should have 930 full-time positions, but 322 of those are vacant, for a nearly 35 percent vacancy rate.

Vacancy rates for part-time workers are even higher. At Osawatomie, 34 of 61 part-time spots are vacant, a rate of 55 percent. At Larned, 50 part-time positions out of a total of 112 are vacant, for a 44 percent rate.

Vacancy rates at the Kansas Neurological Institute and Parsons State Hospital have less than 10 percent vacancy rates for full-time positions.

KDADS said the agency has taken serious steps to reduce the number of patients at the facility and that while there are vacancies, patients are receiving appropriate care.

KDADS spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos said Larned and Osawatomie are both small communities and that recruiting and retention of staff is a priority. She also said the number of psychiatrists nationwide has been declining.

“KDADS is very grateful for its long-time, hard-working, dedicated state hospital employees. In Larned, population approximately 6,000, the labor pool is small. Conversely, Topeka has a good job applicant pool. Parsons has not had recruitment challenges. KNI doesn’t have trouble getting applicants for vacant positions,” Sloan-Ramos said.

Osawatomie is also searching for a human resources director and director of nursing, according to job postings on the KDADS website. Postings for Larned show the hospital needs a chief financial officer, chief operations officer, clinical director and program director for its psychiatric treatment program.

Several factors, including pay and mandatory overtime, likely contribute to the difficulty Kansas has in finding and keeping workers at its state hospitals, said Rebecca Proctor, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said staffing levels at the state hospitals is “a long-term travesty.”

“A lot of it has to do with the pay scale of state hospital workers,” he said. “They are underfunded, they are underpaid for what they do because in many cases they’re in rather dangerous working environments.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com


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