Larned State Hospital, located southwest of Great Bend, should have 930 full-time positions. Right now, 322 of those are vacant, for a vacancy rate of about 35 percent.
The vacancy rates for part-time workers are even higher. Thirty-four of 61 part-time spots are vacant at Osawatomie, a rate of 55 percent. At Larned, 50 part-time positions out of a total of 112 are vacant, for a rate of 44 percent.
Staffing levels are so low that they’ve become a danger for both patients and staff, said Rebecca Proctor, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees.
KOSE represents state workers, including state hospital workers. Proctor acknowledged the jobs are difficult by their very nature, where workers at times are putting their own lives on the line.
Without the ability to maintain a full staff, the hospitals have had to turn to other measures to keep operations running smoothly. Often, those measures include mandatory overtime.
Mandatory overtime may include requiring workers to remain on the job for an additional shift. At times, it also means workers are asked to come in to work a shift before their regular shift.
Proctor said hospitals will begin calling in workers if they can’t fill a shift through mandates.
Turning off your cellphone, even if it is to go to sleep, is no guarantee a worker won’t be reached. Proctor said supervisors have been sent to knock on the doors of workers to wake them if they can’t be reached by phone.
KDADS spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos said mandatory overtime is a regular practice at Larned and Osawatomie, but isn’t used at the other state hospitals. Sloan-Ramos said there are no limits on how often overtime work can be mandated and also noted that mandatory overtime is a practice used by other institutions as well.
Mandatory overtime is necessary at times to ensure adequate staffing for patient care and treatment, Sloan-Ramos said.