SACRAMENTO COUNTY: Mental Health Center Faces Nursing Shortage
The Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center, northern California's largest mental health treatment center, is facing a nursing shortage, the Sacramento Bee reports. Sources attribute the shortages to a combination of statewide shortages of medical personnel, a county contract dispute and an unusually large number of patients. According to state requirements, centers with more than 80 patients must have at least 20 nurses on site during each 24-hour period. While that requirement translates to seven nurses per shift, one nurse at the center contends that on some nights, only one nurse covers 60 patients. As of yesterday, the center had 93 patients -- 11 more than its license permits. Kathleen Henry, the center's executive director, said that according to her records, "she never had fewer than three nurses during a night shift." She did, however, acknowledge that fluctuations were possible, but added that "the situation is not critical and administrators are working hard to fill vacancies." She said, "I don't want to imply that it is OK not to have (sufficient) nurses. We are doing everything possible to fill those vacancies. But I do want to make it clear that patients are safe." Nursing union representative Nancy Matulich said she will meet with administrators next month to address staffing problems, including three complaints that the center is an unsafe working environment. Matulich said, "I know that management is trying to think of everything they can do. But they could find themselves with a problem with their license if this continues." Ruben Lozano, deputy director for program compliance at the Department of Mental Health, said he was unaware of the problem, but added, "Believe me, if we find staffing standards are not being met, we will take appropriate action" (Griffith/Hubert, 12/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.