In the 125th anniversary year of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King (WVH-King), the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) is proud of the quality of care provided its members over the years.
Maintaining a high level of quality of care for our veterans is our absolute top priority. A major union has alleged that chronic staff shortages threaten quality of care at King. This is absolutely false.
Staffing is directly connected to census levels at the home. In April 2011, the WVH-King hit a low point of 650 members living there. This led to a deficit of over $5 million for Fiscal Year 2011. When I was appointed Secretary of the Department in August of 2011, I made improving the fiscal situation at the WVH-King, and the whole Department, one of my top priorities. Today, we average about 700 members and the financial situation at the WVH-King dramatically improved. This, of course, means we need more staff.
When average census levels remained consistently high, in order to continually provide for adequate staffing and supplies and services, the WDVA received authority from the state legislature for additional staffing. Open recruitment is in place at the WVH-King. Interviewing, hiring, orientation and placement of qualified candidates is ongoing. The WDVA has been working aggressively to fill direct care positions. As of July 30, 2012, the WVH-King will only have 18 direct-care positions open of a total of 494 direct care positions, less than one percent. We’ve focused on retention, implementing employee recognition programs and changing policies that streamline employee hiring and transfer processes.
We fully understand that forced overtime has many negative impacts for the Department. That is why forced overtime has been continuously monitored and the levels of overall overtime have actually decreased steadily while the census has continually risen. Just four, less than one percent, of King’s 494 direct care staff (CNAs, LPNs, RNs) have been forced to work three additional eight-hour shifts a week of overtime in the past three months.
When an organization alleges that we are purposefully making decisions that would compromise that care, we do not take that lightly. The fact is, over the past year, the WVH-King HAS grown. We are adding jobs and helping to grow the economy of the Waupaca community. That is a good thing.
The WDVA values its staff and the support the WVH-King receives from the Waupaca community and volunteers. We have great people working for us who are providing excellent care to our nation’s heroes. We have an important mission to fulfill, and everyday, with the help of our employees, we are making King a great place to live.
John A. Scocos is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs