- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Officials may have to eliminate 12 beds for psychiatric patients at Wyoming’s State Hospital due to funding problems stemming from the state’s revenue losses because of drops in prices of coal, oil and natural gas, according to Wyoming Department of Health Director Tom Forslund.

Forslund told state lawmakers Thursday that the beds might have to be removed from the hospital if it ends up without enough nurses to treat patients.

“In a worst-case scenario, we’ll have to start shutting down portions of the hospital,” Forslund told the Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, which met at Casper College.

Wyoming has been hit with declining state revenue over the last several years because of the slump in the coal, oil and natural gas sectors.

Thirteen registered nurse and nurse aide positions at the state hospital are currently vacant.

Forslund said he left 10 of the positions vacant to give other nurses raises. Three others left their jobs.

And a state hiring freeze will prevent Forslund from hiring new employees starting Monday, the Casper Star-Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/2qeS5Ea).

“Any vacant positions that are funded with at least 80 percent of general funds or more, those positions that are open at end of month are eliminated,” he said. “They are frozen and swept. And so we won’t be able to fill those positions anymore.”

The department has rushed to hire people before the deadline, Forslund said.

The state hospital currently has 75 beds for people with psychiatric illnesses who are involuntarily committed.

More patients would be sent to private psychiatric facilities that have state contracts to provide services if the beds are removed from the state hospital, Forslund said.

Lawmakers did not take action at the meeting.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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