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July 27, 2012
TOPEKA In an effort to offset a nursing shortage at Larned State Hospital, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services this week announced that it had raised registered nurses’ wages.
Effective July 23, starting pay for a registered nurse increased to $29.73 an hour. It had been $23.31.
“We’re hoping that with these pay increases, recruitment will step up and that vacancy rate will go down,” said Angela de Rocha, a KDADS spokeswoman.
Earlier this week, 23 of the Larned hospital’s 84 registered nurse positions were vacant.
Larned State Hospital is one of the three state-run hospitals for the mentally ill.
In March, The Joint Commission cited the hospital for not having enough nurses and for not doing enough to ensure that medications were safely dispensed. The findings put the hospital’s accreditation – and potentially $14.5 million in federal aid – in jeopardy.
The hospital has since filed a plan for correcting the 30 deficiencies cited in The Joint Commission survey.
The accreditation organization’s surveyors are expected to return for an unannounced inspection between now and Sept. 27.
KDADS also is negotiating a pay increase for the hospital’s licensed practical nurses, who are represented by the Kansas Organization of State Employees.
KOSE, a labor union, does not represent the registered nurses.
KOSE Executive Director Mike Marvin declined to say how much of an increase he will propose when he meets with KDADS officials on Aug. 2.
“I don’t want to tip our hand,” Marvin said. “But money isn’t the whole issue. Money isn’t the only thing that motivates people. They need some job satisfaction. They need to feel good about going in to work and not being mandated to work 16-hour shifts two or three times a week.
“They need to have some supervisory people who treat them with respect and talk to them like they’re human beings,” he said. “A lot of that’s not happening out there.”
Currently, starting wage for a licensed practical nurse at Larned State Hospital is $14.30 an hour. Fifteen of the hospital’s 37 licensed practical nurse positions are vacant.
A recent KDADS news release noted that hiring freezes and “slowdowns” had a “significant negative impact” on the hospital, resulting in a 300 to 400 percent increase in overtime pay in the last two fiscal years.
“It’s kind of a continuum,” de Rocha said. “When you don’t have enough staff, people have to work overtime. The two feed off each other. But once we get staffing levels up, we won’t have to require people to work overtime.”
The nurses’ pay raises were part of a $1.9 million budget amendment introduced by Gov. Sam Brownback during this year’s legislative session. The amendment, which passed, also allowed the hospital to hire 23 additional direct care workers.
De Rocha said 12 of the 23 positions have been filled.
The amendment did not include pay raises for nurses at the other state hospitals.
“I think it’s totally unfair the RNs in one out of the five hospitals get a salary increase and the rest don’t,” said Rep. Bill Feuerborn, a Garnett Democrat and ranking minority member on the House Appropriations Committee. “I hear the administration talking about all the recruitment and retention problems they’re having out at Larned, but they’re all suffering. It’s not just Larned.”
Kansas has three state-run hospitals for the mentally ill - at Larned, Kansas City and Osawatomie - and two for the developmentally disabled, in Parsons and Topeka.
After this week, a registered nurse at Larned State Hospital will earn between $6 and $7 an hour more than a registered nurse at one of the other state hospitals.
The disparity, de Rocha said, is tied to labor markets surrounding each of the hospitals. “They’re different,” she said.
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