BUTTE, Mont. -- A state hospital in Warm Springs is facing severe employee shortages, and tensions between administration and staff could be to blame.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs was experiencing a 40% vacancy among staff. Some employees are citing frustration with the administration as the reason why.

The Montana State Hospital is the only state-operated psychiatric hospital in Montana, and it's been facing staffing shortages since at least March. Some are worried that the hospital's ability to provide mental health services for patients could be in jeopardy due to the high number of vacant positions.

Dr. Polly Peterson is a private practitioner in Butte who served as the Montana State Hospital's chief of the psychology department from 2001 to 2011. She returned to the hospital in a part-time role in 2015 alongside her private practice, and she remained there until the hospital did not renew her contract in June of this year. Peterson expressed concern about the direction that the current administration is taking.

"When I came back to Warm Springs, I just tried to stay out of the way," Peterson said. "I saw what was going on and saw where things were headed. But mostly I just wanted not to get involved."

Peterson cited a lack of communication between her and hospital administrator Kyle Fouts as a reason for her discontent with the administration.

"That's the issue with Kyle--I never talked to the guy, I never met the guy, he's never so much as introduced himself to me," Peterson said. "And that's kind of the way he's been with long-term staff. It seems like he just wants to get everybody out of there and clean house and start with people that he can hire."

Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services, which oversees the hospital, provided this statement today:

"DPHHS is committed to ensuring that all our state-operated health care facilities are effectively serving Montanans. [We] applaud the commitment and dedication our facility staff bring to their jobs on a daily basis, and we must do all we can to support them and the hundreds of Montanans these facilities serve."

DPHHS also mentioned that they issued requests for proposal in order to better analyze their operational structure. They are also currently working to fill the hospital's open positions.

This is not the Montana State Hospital's first instance of internal issues in recent years. In 2016, a patient claimed she was raped by another patient during her stay. In the same year, the hospital underwent a lawsuit for violating patients' rights, resulting in a $2,000 settlement.


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