Vt. Veterans' Home faces staffing crisis - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Veterans' Home faces staffing crisis

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The state employees union says the Vermont Veterans' Home could end up just like the Vermont State Hospital. The nursing home in Bennington is at risk of losing federal funding.

John Dunham says he's overworked. "I've been known to work 60-70 hours in a work week," he said.

He's afraid his long hours are causing harm to others on the job. "You don't want me pouring your meds at 15.5 hours when I've been working short staffed the entire time," Dunham said.

As a care provider at the Vermont Veterans' Home, Dunham says mandatory overtime is the norm -- they work doubles on a daily basis. WCAX examined sat down with state workers to look over their current schedule. In the next four weeks 305 eight hour shifts are un-staffed, which means Dunham and others will work double -- and if you don't show up?

"They're being threatened at this time that if you're not able to work 16 hours that might impact your job," Dunham said.

"The total numbers of staff are probably not inappropriate. How the staff is being used may be an issue that needs to be addressed," said Vermont Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding.

Spaulding says the state is aware of the staffing issue. This week they hired a neutral third party to head to Bennington for an assessment. The facility currently faces a loss of federal funding and de-certification. State workers say its Déjà vu. The Vermont State Hospital lost support from the feds back in 2003.

"I think for people to try to say this will be like the state hospital is really jumping a step ahead and I certainly hope it's not the case," Spaulding said.

To complicate matters further, while the hospital employs state workers, it answers to a board of directors. Unlike corrections or public safety, this limits state oversight.

"It's not a direct report to the governor or the secretary of administration -- we try to help as we can and we are doing so right now," Spaulding said.

WCAX contacted the board of directors at the Veterans Nursing Home for comment last week and was directed to the union, which has not responded. Secretary Spaulding says until the third party study is complete, they will not be hiring any new workers.


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