Q&A: Dept. of Human Services responds to safety concerns at Anoka facility

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Following a series of assaults, staff at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center argue the state-run facility serving the mentally ill is just too dangerous. In addition to a follow-up story Wednesday, FOX 9 also spoke to officials with the Department of Human Services. 

Q: Has there been any documented assaults on staff at AMRTC this month? Could you please provide any stats gathered since 1/1/2019?
From January through May 29, 2019, there have been 28 OSHA recordable staff injuries due to patient aggression.

Q: Is the agency concerned about current safety conditions there? 
Because patients at AMRTC have highly complex mental illnesses that can result in volatile behavior, safety is always our top priority, and assaults on staff at DHS facilities are deeply concerning.  

Staff review high-risk patients multiple times a day and try to anticipate problems. The hospital has implemented many safeguards and administration reviews incidents to see if there are new measures that should be taken to ensure the safety of staff and patients.

We are listening carefully to staff and union representatives to determine how to best address the safety concerns they’ve raised.

Q: What are the current staffing levels and is DHS concerned about long hours staff are being asked to work?
The staffing level at AMRTC is determined and adjusted according to patient need. 

To comply with state and federal regulations surrounding standards of care, staff continuously evaluate the medical conditions and behaviors of individual patients, their interactions with other patients and the group dynamic in the hospital. This is done at least every four hours, and often more frequently. Staff numbers and skill mix are adjusted to meet the needs.

As of May 23, there 414 full-time equivalent staff at AMRTC. Of those, 254 are nurses and others who work directly with patients.

Increased admissions of patients who have severe conditions and challenging behaviors have resulted in increased overtime for staff. That has been necessary to provide appropriate patient care.

We’re always concerned about burnout, and we want our staff to be happy, health and safe. We have discussed the concerns about overtime with staff and labor representatives and are working to address the problem. We are actively recruiting new staff to lower our reliance on overtime.