Members of the Citizen's Advisory Board were kept up-to-date on the happenings at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute at last Friday's Quarterly Meeting.
Business Manager Chris Tofteberg gave the Board a budget update. He said that seven of the 39 positions that were vacated by the State's Early Retirement Incentive Plan have now been filled, and another 10 positions had been approved when budget cuts were announced. The budget for Cherokee MHI was reduced a significant amount which had not been anticipated, but Tofteberg felt that newly elected Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds are supportive of the state's social programs and Branstad is working to find funds to keep MHI at the standing they were on Jan. 1, 2011 through the fiscal year.
Tofteberg said the 2012 budget has been released and that Cherokee MHI "looks good," and is at a sustainable level. CCUSO is a little short on their budget, but resources can be shared with the MHI side, according to Tofteberg.
The Department Heads at Cherokee MHI began meeting in late 2010 to discuss how changes can be implemented to improve the efficiency in how things are done, and these meetings brought about many changes, examples of creative, "out of the box" thinking. Some examples of this include revamping the system for admitting patients; changing the hours at the switchboard and sharing resources with CCUSO in that area; cross training with current personnel; and sharing more resources with CCUSO. Dr. Jason Smith has been appointed as Superintendent of the MHI side, and also has the title of Administrator at CCUSO, allowing for a shared cost savings.
Director of Nursing Jane Campbell reported that she is currently working on establishing a contract with Dr. Sethi, a former staff psychiatrist at Cherokee MHI, to provide training for MHI staff via the ICN.
Campbell said the nursing department has been working short staffed for several months and she has had to do some "creative scheduling" at times to maintain adequate staffing. She praised the nursing staff for their hard work and willingness to adjust their schedules, but also noted that this has impacted the staff's daily lives for seven months and is not a sustainable solution. One solution has been to hire "temps," and they have hired three so far and are awaiting approval for hiring three more.
Campbell also noted that transporting patients has become an issue, as Cherokee MHI requires two staff to be present on every patient transport. This creates another staff shortage, but they are working with CCUSO and its staff to help out in this area.
Admission standards have been changed. Nursing now takes calls to make sure admissions are appropriate for hospitalization, and this pre-screening process will continue.
Campbell said a meeting with law enforcement officials, representatives from local hospitals and counties was held concerning bed availability at MHI, but the news of budget issues prevented any solutions from surfacing. The lack of beds at MHI affects many others in the community, and she gave these examples : A proposed ward of six beds was not opened due to the lack of staffing; Some beds aren't opening up because there is no place to transfer some hard-to-place patients, which in turn creates a shortage of beds for potential new patients at MHI; the staff shortage at MHI may also delay some MHI discharges which require staff transportation.
On a more positive note, Campbell said that law enforcement officials and jailers have been very cooperative working with the MHI in the cases of patients who need to be jailed.
Campbell also noted that MHI continues to be a strong training facility, offering ongoing training programs for nursing, pharmacy, paramedic, social work and Physician's Assistants students.
Nurse Clinician Mitze Klingenberg told the Board that the MHI has had several surveys from the Joint Committee on Accreditation in recent months, surveying the clinical, life safety and laboratory programs, and she reported that all of the surveys went well, with no major deficiency findings. The minor deficiencies are very correctable and corrections are under way.
Brad Wittrock, the Deputy Superintendent of CCUSO, provided an update on the third stage of construction at CCUSO. Wittrock said that when CCUSO opened several years ago, they had 50 patients, living on two wards of the South wing of the building. Following some remodeling, CCUSO now has 81 patients on three wards.
When this third and final stage is completed, hopefully by the end of the summer, CCUSO will occupy all three wings on the South side. Capacity will be increased to 150, including one ward of apartment-like settings for up to 25 transitional residents.
When finished, CCUSO will have a handicap-accessible design, all existing electrical and plumbing will be replaced, new HVAC Systems will be installed; new finished flooring will be installed; the unit will have a file room and conference room; security throughout the CCUSO building will contain CCTV and digital video recording equipment, intercom and door controls, expanded security barriers, secure windows, and a secure outer fence.