Vermont psychiatric hospital workers allege dangerous staff shortages


Employees at Brattleboro (Vt.) Retreat hospital are expressing increased frustration with workplace conditions at the psychiatric facility that they say are dangerous, according to the VTDigger.

About a dozen former and current employees told the news platform the hospital is short-staffed and workers don't have enough personal protective equipment. 

According to data provided to VTDigger by the nurses' union, 115 employees have left the hospital since Jan. 11, and at least 15 people have been fired or laid off since March 23. 

Union members who spoke with the VTDIgger said the departures have created a dangerous situation with inadequate staff oversight, and cited an April attack of a teen patient by other patients as an example. 

Retreat President and CEO Louis Josephson told the VTDigger he disputes workers' characterizations and primarily attributes staff departures to workers' fears of contracting COVID-19, high turnover rates that are typical for psychiatric facilities and a nationwide nursing shortage.

"People have been pretty clear [the heightened risk of infection] is not something they were willing to take on," he told the news organization. "I think we've done everything that is reasonable to do in this environment," he said, regarding the hospital's pandemic response. 

Mr. Josephson declined to confirm an attack on a patient in April, to VTDigger, citing patient privacy concerns. CMS confirmed a report had been filed.

Brattleboro Retreat is a private, nonprofit facility that offers mental health and addiction care. Given employees' concerns, Vermont state Rep. Anne Donahue has called for greater state and legislative oversight for the facility, according to VTDigger.

Read the full report here.


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