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Rising patient numbers leads to hires at health center in Kittanning

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

A rising number of patients will mean more nursing jobs in the Armstrong County Health Center in Kittanning.

The health center had 82 patients in June and has had 100 in July, said Daniel Lucovich, the county's director of human resources. As a result, six certified nursing assistants, two licensed practical nurses and two registered nurses will be hired during the next several weeks.

The center is a 115-bed nursing facility on South McKean Street and has 130 employees, including 39 CNAs, 18 LPNs and eight RNs, Lucovich said.

State law requires one nurse on duty for every 20 residents and at least two nurses on duty at all times.

“We've had to stretch our current employees the last two weekends to cover all of our shifts,” Lucovich said. “We've had some people go on long-term absences for illnesses or surgery, and an influx of summer vacations that has made staffing tricky with the high amount of residents.

“But we've never been too short to meet the residents' needs. We've just had people working longer days.”

Lucovich credits Affinity Health Services' marketing for the spike in residents.

“They have been working with a lot of area hospitals and different avenues to make more people aware of what we have to offer,” Lucovich said. “That marketing push has helped the health center turn around.”

In November, the county signed a three-year contract with Indiana-based Affinity to manage the center. The company is being paid $173,000 in the first year. What it gets paid in the last two years of the contract will be based on patient population.

Until the hiring is complete, the Armstrong County Commissioners approved plans to work with Accountable Healthcare Staffing, a Baldwin-based agency providing temporary medical staffing, said Beth Costanzo, director of nursing at the health center.

The agency provides registered nurses for $47 per hour on weekdays, and $48 per hour on the weekends. It provides certified nursing assistants for $25 per hour, weekdays, or $25.50 per hour on the weekends, and $35 per hour for licensed practical nurses any day.

“This isn't preferable. We've never had to work with a staffing company before, but they will have people available whenever we need,” Costanzo said.

Before agreeing to terms with Accountable Healthcare Staffing, Costanzo said administrators met with the nurses' union, who agreed to bring in the temporary staffing on an as-needed basis.

“These people will only be called after we've exhausted our existing staff and offered them overtime,” Costanzo said. “It's really a last resort. Hopefully, we won't need to call them in.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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