By Jim Misunas
LARNED — A face-to-face meeting with the state official who oversees Larned State Hospital has eased the concern over recent firings expressed by State Senator Allen Schmidt, D-Hays.
Schmidt met Friday with Rob Siedlecki, secretary of the Social and Rehabilitation Services. Siedlecki is responsible for the management for the state hospital system, including the Larned State Hospital complex. Siedlecki was hired by Governor Sam Brownback.
“He described Larned State Hospital as a first-class facility,” Schmidt said. “He said there will be no more firings at Larned State Hospital, unless there is just cause. He assured me there wouldn’t be any more firings. I feel more positive after meeting with Secretary Siedlecki. and getting some answers.”
In the past month, Siedlecki has dismissed Larned State Hospital Superintendent Robert Connell and Osawatomie State Hospital Greg Valentine and Kim Brennan, director of nursing at Larned State Hospital.
Larned State Hospital employees have reported they are being kept in the dark. Some expressed at a public meeting last week, they had heard conversation that suggested the state hospital will continue to lose valuable long-time employees.
“They felt they had to make an executive decision on the superintendent,” Schmidt said. “Secretary Siedlecki said they want to stabilize the situation at Larned State Hospital and put it back together. They will conduct a nationwide search and bring in a top leader.”
Schmidt said he intends to keep abreast of the situation so that he can best represent Pawnee County.
Schmidt told Siedlecki that LSH employees were surprised that the dismissals were done with no warning and there is no indication the layoffs have anything to do with job performance.
“There were issues how it was done. There are legitimate concerns over morale and fear about what is going on,” Schmidt said.
In an overview of the state mental health hospitals, Siedlecki and Ray Dalton, secretary of disability and behavioral health services, expressed a goal to cut spending by more than $1.9 million over the next two fiscal years at the state hospitals, mostly by cutting salaries and positions.
Larned State Hospital would have 138 vacant positions eliminated. An estimated 294 vacant positions would be eliminated in the state system during the next two years.