Thumbs down: Overtime costly for state
Quality mental health care is more important than ever, but West Virginia's two state hospitals have struggled with staffing shortages and other problems for years.
This spring, Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington had about 41 vacancies unfilled and William R. Sharpe Hospital in Weston had 48, the Charleston Gazette reported. Both hospitals also have shortages in critical care staff.
Those vacancies result in costly overtime, as administrators work to provide the staffing the hospitals need to care for patients around the clock. The two hospitals had 4,162 hours of employee overtime in March alone. Last year, a state audit also showed that a handful of employees at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman have received $100,000 or more in overtime compensation.
That not only seems to be a costly way to staff the hospital, but you have to ask if having a limited number of employees working all those extra hours affects the quality of care and supervision of patients and staff. Low wages also contribute to staff turnover.
Last week, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Louis "Duke" Bloom concluded there has to be a better way. As part of a long-running case, he gave the Department of Health and Human Resources until June 11 to develop a comprehensive plan.
"Don't come back and tell me that's it's subject to legislative approval," Bloom said in court. "I want to know what your plan is. Failure to do so, and the court may very well have to develop its own plan."
We hope the judge's order will prompt some action.
It is time for the state to adequately staff both hospitals and ensure quality mental health care in West Virginia.
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