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Idaho’s Veterans Services Division struggles to hire nurses

A nurse takes a patient’s blood pressure. File photo.

The director of Idaho’s Division of Veterans Services says beds for veterans are going empty despite waiting lists because the agency can’t hire enough medical staffers.

Director Marv Hagedorn told Idaho’s legislative budget-setting committee on Monday that it’s difficult to hire nurses in today’s market, and wages need to be increased if the state wants to keep beds available for veterans.

The division is requesting about $900,000 in additional funding next year to address the wage issues at veterans homes in Lewiston, Pocatello and Boise. Hagedorn says turnover was almost 30 percent last year, and some competitors are paying nurses a $10,000 hiring bonus. The homes were at about 89 percent capacity last week; the empty beds could not be filled because that would violate the required staff-to-patient ratio.

The Idaho Division of Veterans Services is mostly federally funded; just 2.5 percent of its total budget comes from state funds. Hagedorn says the general fund portion may need to eventually increase.

Gov. Brad Little is recommending a budget of about $78.4 million for the division next year.

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