"The State’s decision to RIF these 80 state hospital caregivers does absolutely nothing to help alleviate Vermont’s very serious mental health crisis"
”We all knew Governor Douglas had an affinity for laying off state employees, but we never witnessed him laying off 80 employees at one time.”
Vermont State Employees Association Blasts Administration’s
Decision To RIF 80 Vermont State Hospital Employees
Vermont State Employees’ Association President John Reese is blasting this morning’s announcement in testimony by Human Resources Commissioner Kate Duffy that the State will today RIF 80 displaced Vermont State Hospital nurses, social workers and psychiatric technicians.
“The State’s decision to RIF these 80 state hospital caregivers does absolutely nothing to help alleviate Vermont’s very serious mental health crisis,” said Reese. “In fact, we think it will only worsen the crisis because it takes many dedicated and knowledgeable caregivers out of the system and away from a patient population that depends on continuity of care—and caregivers.” VSEA Director Mark Mitchell added, “It’s shameful that after nearly a decade of providing top-level care to the most severely mentally ill Vermonters—in widely acknowledged less-than-ideal conditions—and after heroically rising up during and after Irene to evacuate this same population safely as water rose around them, the State is now rewarding these caregivers with a RIF notice. We all knew Governor Douglas had an affinity for laying off state employees, but we never witnessed him laying off 80 employees at one time. ”
Reese remembered a meeting a few months ago between Secretary of the Administration Spaulding and the state hospital caregivers. He said Spaulding promised the caregivers in attendance that the State would try as hard as it could to include them in any contracts it negotiated with private hospitals.
“VSEA isn’t privy to the State’s contract negotiations with the private hospitals, so we don’t know exactly why no VSEA caregivers are being retained at either the Brattleboro Retreat or Rutland Regional,” said Reese. “We can only assume that the State did not negotiate hard enough on the employees’ behalf or that the private hospitals were just too rigid. Needless to say, the caregivers, especially those being RIF’d, would like to know why the State was unable to ensure they had a role with the private hospitals, which I would add are receiving millions of dollars in state subsidies under the Shumlin mental health plan.” Mitchell continued, “Irene had already caused a big group of state hospital caregivers to have to look for other employment, and the loss of those caregivers hurt Vermont’s mental health system. Now the State wants to further decimate our mental health care system by taking an additional eighty experienced caregivers out of it. It’s going to be very difficult to replace the knowledge and experience the State seems prepared to throw away.”
Reese ended by cautioning again that VSEA caregivers believe the State is putting far too much stock in the private hospitals’ ability to adequately care for a very vulnerable patient population.
“By placing so many acute mental health beds at the Brattleboro Retreat, Rutland Regional and Fletcher Allen, the State is, in effect, privatizing a sizeable piece of our mental health system. This means we now run the risk of the private hospitals just deciding to start charging Vermont more money to care for our most severely mentally ill citizens. Then what? We only have a 16-bed facility under state control and nowhere else to house this vulnerable population. We’ll again be at the mercy of the private hospitals, much as we are now. We simply can’t afford to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to the integrity of our mental health system—especially when it comes to our dedicated and highly trained state hospital caregivers. I strongly urge the Administration to reconsider the disastrous effects that following through on this decision will have.”