Back in 2013, it was Tristan Shaver, Melissa Strain and Elizabeth Earegood who shined a light on inhumane working conditions at the Larned State Hospital complex.
Shaver worked in the Sexual Predator Treatment program. Strain was a mental health development disability aide and Earegood served in the psychiatric program. They worked in different venues, but their stories were similar.
No matter the risk, it requires brave employees to tell the public what’s going on behind the scenes at Larned State Hospital.
In 2016, it is Kyle Nuckolls and Lynette Lewis who repeated their sad stories in front of the Bob Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight at the Capitol. Nuckolls serves as a mental health technician. Lewis is a pharmacy technician who has worked at Larned State Hospital for 18 years.
Both serve as stewards for the Kansas Organization of State Employees labor union.
If you compare notes, not much has changed at Larned State Hospital.
Supervisors are still under the gun to deliver federal and state-mandated care no matter how few employees are working. Employees are generally on the short end of that equation.
Employees are still required to serve mandatory overtime because of a lack of staff. Their lack of time between shifts takes a toll on workers and their families at the short-staffed facility.
Employees with young children are subjected to loss of quality time away from their families. In many cases, someone else is raising their children.
The extra work creates safety issues for patients and staff, who cannot deliver quality care when they are constantly working 12-hour shifts.
Already, dozens of inmates with mental health issues were shifted out of the hospital and into a correctional facility, which appears to be a quick fix. Tim Keck, interim secretary for the Department for Aging and Disability Services, said that move is one of the ways KDADS is addressing the hospital staffing shortage.
Rep. Dan Hawkins, cochairman of the oversight committee, said he and Sen. Laura Kelly, the committee’s top Democrat, recently traveled to Larned to visit with employees.
Former Superintendent Tom Kinlen was a high quality employee who apparently was unable to change the status quo. Maybe interim Larned State Hospital superintendent Chris Mattingly can make a difference.