Kansas Governor Sam Brownback toured the Larned State Hospital Thursday and met with patients and staff, accompanied by Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services Shawn Sullivan.
"My visit today gave me a first-hand look at the challenges the state has at Larned State Hospital and to hear directly from staff members," Governor Brownback said.
The Governor discussed with staff how his proposed budget funds the hospital's core services and maintains staffing levels. He congratulated staff on the efficiencies found at the hospital that will save about $1.7 million through better management of the pharmacy division and kitchen operations. His proposed budget also funds a new forensic evaluation unit that opened in December and a new Sexual Predator Treatment Program unit scheduled to open in 2014.
"The Larned State Hospital budget is a very small percentage of Kansas' overall budget. Core programs and our expansion units have been funded, but we have made some common-sense efficiencies. Larned's FY 2013 budget was $7 million higher than the previous year because of wage increases and other improvements made during that budget period," Governor Brownback said. "It is our responsibility to deliver quality care to the patients here. I believe the community of Larned agrees about the level of care and the need to provide adequate funding for the hospital."
Another matter on the table was recruitment and staffing challenges, and the amount of overtime hospital staff have been asked to work as a result.
"Larned State Hospital has been dealing with a critical staffing situation during the last two years. Our employees have stepped up to the plate heroically to fill in the gaps. We are making progress towards addressing the overtime situation. Overtime hours are 16 percent lower than they were a year ago at this time, and trending down," Secretary Sullivan said. "We are well aware that we still have a distance to go."
The Brownback Administration and KDADS have a number of new programs that are being implemented to improve employee recruitment and retention, and to reduce overtime. These initiatives include:
- Superintendent's Nursing Task Force to strengthen recruitment efforts for nurses and LPNs
- Development of staff float pools to fill gaps in staffing as they occur
- Institution of automating scheduling processes that are more efficient than the former system
- Focus groups of nursing staff to provide expert insight on the best way to address the problem
- A new leadership and supervisory training program
- A new education and training program for licensed mental health workers to enable the hospital to hire more training personnel.
- Operational assessments of all state hospitals, conducted by an outside consultant, are under way to determine how to make the most efficient use of the resources we have.