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KDADS Hopes Salary Increase Will Boost Osawatomie Nursing Staff

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Starting wages for registered nurses at Osawatomie State Hospital will go from $25.05 an hour to $28.44 an hour, a nearly 14 percent hike. A consultant identified hiring more RNs as a major need.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has raised starting pay for registered nurses at Osawatomie State Hospital to attract more full-time employees.

The department announced Monday that the starting wage for registered nurses at Osawatomie would rise from $25.05 per hour to $28.44 per hour, which is a nearly 14 percent increase. The increase will affect registered nurses earning the starting wage but not those farther up the pay scale, KDADS spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said.

Osawatomie and Larned State Hospital are the state’s two mental health hospitals for Kansans who are judged to be a danger to themselves or others. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decertified Osawatomie in December due to concerns about patient safety, so the hospital can’t receive federal payments.

Osawatomie currently has the equivalent of 21.5 full-time registered nurses and is looking to hire 15 more, de Rocha said.

The hospital works with a contracting agency to fill its nursing ranks, she said, but it will cost less to hire full-time staff nurses — even with the salary increase.

A study found Osawatomie was paying nurses about 9 percent less than comparable facilities in the Kansas City area, KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said in a news release. He said the pay increase would help the hospital compete for workers and reduce turnover.

Some nurses commute from the suburbs of Kansas City, de Rocha said, so the state hospital needs to pay salaries that compare with facilities in that area. It hasn’t had the same challenges when it comes to hiring licensed practical nurses and mental health technicians, she said.

“We can’t expect people to choose to make less money, particularly if they’re going to have to commute,” she said.

A consultant hired to assist Osawatomie with its recertification efforts identified hiring more registered nurses as a major need, de Rocha said. If all continues to go well, the hospital could apply for recertification early this summer, she said.

Osawatomie’s patient capacity was reduced from 206 to 146 in June after federal surveyors cited the facility for having too many patients, not having enough staff and not doing enough to protect suicidal patients from hanging themselves.

Megan Hart is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach her on Twitter @meganhartMC

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