Workers from the Larned State Hospital told a Kansas legislative committee Monday that staff shortages have created difficult and unsafe working conditions at the mental facility.
Lynette Lewis, an 18-year employee at Larned, says staff members are forced to work repeated overtime shifts in a row. She says the facility is so short-staffed that workers can’t take time off for family issues or illness.
“Basically, they’re afraid out there. Afraid of losing their job, the conditions are so bad they’re forced to work all this overtime. They feel if they don’t work the overtime they’re going to lose their job or they will be reprimanded for it in some way,” says
Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck says he knows there are problems at the facility. He says the number of unfilled positions has been reduced, but around 34 percent of the total jobs available at the hospital remain unstaffed.
“It’s still not a big enough shift, in my mind. It’s still too big, still too many hours being worked overtime, but we’re trying to find ways to help alleviate that overtime for staff,” says Keck.
Keck says he hopes new leadership at the facility will speed the improvements.
Workers from the Larned State Hospital say staffing shortages have created difficult and unsafe working conditions at the mental facility. Two employees told a legislative committee Monday about the challenges they face. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports.
Kyle Nuckolls says staff often work 12- to 16-hour shifts multiple days in a row and can’t take time off for family emergencies or illness. He says the long shifts lead to worker mistakes and other challenges.
“I cannot count the number of times I’ve fallen asleep at the wheel driving home or the number of employees who have told me they’ve done the same,” says Nuckolls.
Tim Keck is secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. He says they’re taking steps to improve working conditions and leadership at Larned.
“It’s got to change. It’s got to be more respectful, better employee relations and I think it’s better over the last few months. I hope it stays that way. It’s a stressful place to be. It’s hard to work those hours,” says Keck.
Keck says around 34 percent of jobs at Larned are currently unfilled.