Official: Staff Vacancies Strain Virginia Mental Hospitals

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s public mental hospitals are struggling with high employee turnover rates and have turned to hiring nurses from other countries to fill vacancies at some locations.

That’s according to the state’s top mental health official, who spoke with a panel of lawmakers Monday.

Dr. Jack Barber is the interim commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. He told lawmakers on a committee studying mental health issues that hospital staffing vacancy rates in April were as high as 60 percent among certain registered nurses at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton.

At Piedmont Geriatric Hospital in Burkeville, southwest of Richmond, they were 46 percent.

Barber says the department has hired international nurses and is evaluating compensation for nurses and physicians.

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