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April 27, 2012
TOPEKA The Senate Ways and Means Committee today declined to adopt the governor's proposal to spend an additional $1.9 million at Larned State Hospital to help deal with problems of understaffing.
“We’ll take this up on the floor,” of the Senate during debate on budget legislation, said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican and chair of the committee.
The committee decided to take no action on the request after some members' questions about the spending request went unanswered by administration officials.
Michelle Schroeder, public policy director for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which oversees the hospital, told members that last month The Joint Commission, a national organization that accredits hospitals, had cited the Larned hospital for being understaffed. As a result, the facility’s accreditation was in jeopardy.
“Larned is in critical condition for accreditation,” she said.
About half the proposed funding, she said, would be used to increase nurses’ salaries; the other half would allow the hospital to hire 23 additional employees.
When asked how many nurses would be in line for a pay raise, how the raises would be calculated, and how they jibed with other initiatives aimed at raising state employee wages, Schroeder said she didn’t know.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, asked why the administration wasn’t proposing comparable raises for the nurses at the state hospitals in Topeka, Parsons, Osawatomie, and Kansas City.
Schroeder said the situation at Larned State Hospital “is the critical issue right now.”
Staffing concerns at the other hospitals would be reviewed by the administration this summer, she said.
“It’s not only Larned that has staffing issues,” Kelly said. “Just about every other state hospital has suggested they’re having the same problems. So are we going to wait until the other hospitals have their accreditation called into question or are we going to do some proactive restructuring that beats them to the punch?”
Kelly asked Schroeder to let the committee know when the other hospitals’ accreditation surveys were due. Schroeder said she would.
“I would suggest you look to see what it would take to adjust all the salaries to help with retention in all the hospitals,” Kelly said.
Schroeder said that SRS Deputy Secretary Gary Haulmark and Kansas Department on Aging Secretary Shawn Sullivan have been leading the administration’s efforts to address the staffing issues at Larned State Hospital.
Neither Sullivan nor Haulmark was able to attend the committee’s mid-morning meeting.
Sullivan is scheduled to assume official oversight of the hospitals effective July 1, after SRS and the aging department are reorganized. Sullivan will then head the newly named Department for Aging and Disability Services and a smaller SRS will become the Department for Children and Families.
Though the call for spending an additional $1.9 million at Larned State Hospital was part of a budget amendment introduced by the governor’s budget office on Thursday, only one budget office employee attended the hearing. She told committee members she was unfamiliar with most of the amendment.
No one from the Governor’s Office attended the meeting.
Committee members agreed to mention the proposal during next week’s floor debate on the budget bill.
The House Appropriations Committee is expected to hear the proposed budget amendment next week.
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