PUEBLO, Colo. — Federal regulators are threatening to cut off funding to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo unless is resolves severe staff shortages that they say pose a serious threat to the health and safety of patients.

The 449-bed hospital has until June 28 to comply with the directive or face losing its Medicare funding, The Pueblo Chieftain reported (http://bit.ly/2rcOqIn).

Hospital administrators are putting staff on forced overtime and taking other measures to shore up the shortage of nurses and other personnel, officials with the Colorado Department of Human Services said Friday.

“There are many variables at work in the staffing shortage,” Dr. Kim Nordstrom, the department’s director of mental health institutes, said in a statement. “The plan we have put in place will address the challenges identified by (inspectors).”

The statement said Medicare officials have accepted the personnel plan offered by the hospital but will not make any decision on whether it is meeting Medicare standards until June 28.

Nancy VanDeMark, director of behavioral science at the department, said the state hospital has 723 “direct care” positions and 97 are vacant. There is also a shortage of staff with specific, needed specialties, she said.

“If we could hire 100 more people with the right skills, this problem would go away,” VanDeMark said Friday.

State Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said lawmakers have been aware of the staffing problems at the hospital for years but did not know had become serious enough to jeopardize its federal funding.

The amount of federal funding at stake was not immediately available.

The hospital provides mental health care to adults, adolescents and geriatric patients.


Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com