The new Utah State Hospital superintendent has a few crises to face.
For starters, there aren't enough nurses working at the facility. There were also 4,000 incidents that could have resulted in injury last year, the Legislature appropriated only half the money that hospital administrators requested, and an accreditation committee is scheduled to tour the facility in five months.The State Division of Mental Health last week appointed Robert A. Verville, 43, as superintendent of the state hospital for mentally ill patients. He succeeds Paul Thorpe, who has been named superintendent of the Utah State Training School.
Verville admits he has a few problems to deal with, but he's optimistic.
"We're quite pleased and proud of the hospital right now," he said. "We're always looking at what we can do to improve."
Administrators may have to make improvements in a hurry after representatives of the Joint Commission of Hospitals visit. The national organization is responsible for accrediting the state hospital, and if that approval is denied the Utah facility could lose $4 million to $5 million in Medicaid and Medicare benefits, Verville said.
The commission reviews hospitals every three years. Minimum standards have been tightened recently. "We're optimistic we'll pass, but we'll probably have some requirements to meet," he said.
The hospital will have six months to meet whatever requirements it falls short of. Verville said he is most concerned about staff shortages.
The Legislature allocated $300,000 for the hospital this year, allowing administrators to hire about 16 new employees. Verville said the facility needs about twice that number, and one of his goals is to get money to hire them next year.
Meanwhile, employees worry they may not be able to control some patients, because the staff is inadequate.
"We feel that if we have more staff we can reduce the number of (violent) incidents," Verville said. "The staff is concerned. They feel that risk, but even larger than that there's a risk to the patients."
Verville has worked at the hospital for 12 years. He has been assistant superintendent for the past three years and previously directed the forensic unit and served as a clinical social worker. He has a master's degree in social work from the University of Utah and has worked at the Utah State Prison as director of the drug and alcohol program.