After years of trouble, there is good news out of Riverview Psychiatric Center. Officials have, over the past several months, made real progress toward addressing the staffing deficiencies that have affected safety and care at the state-run hospital.

However, actions by Gov. LePage, whose administration has reacted poorly to the problems at Riverview since it was stripped of its federal certification, threaten to undo that good as part of an ill-conceived and wrongheaded effort to show up the Legislature.

The governor said he signed an executive order Monday putting in place a hiring freeze at Riverview, part of a larger effort to pay for four bills he contends weren’t funded last legislative session, a position that simply is not supported by the facts.

It is an unnecessary and empty action by the governor, done only to get his way when he couldn’t do that through the legislative process. And it could harm the patients and workers at Riverview, who have already suffered enough under his administration.

The poor atmosphere at Riverview in recent years has been well-documented. The chief cause of the discontent was insufficient staffing, which forced nurses and mental health workers into long, undermanned shifts, placing them in often-dangerous positions that also were not conducive to providing adequate care.

The staffing shortages resulted in 18,000 to 24,000 hours of overtime last year, a lot of it mandated. As a result, it was not a good place to work – by January, one-third of nursing positions and one-tenth of mental health worker positions were vacant – 51 positions out of 364. And that’s after 29 vacancies were filled in the previous month.

In response, and over the governor’s veto, the Legislature approved raises for Riverview workers. That is one of the bills whose funding LePage has questioned, although it was clearly worked out months ago.

Daniel Wathen, who serves as court master for a consent decree setting guidelines for the state’s treatment of people diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness, told the Bangor Daily News that as of last week, there are nine nursing vacancies, as well as two vacancies for acuity specialists and one or two for mental health workers.

The true test will be whether this momentum can be maintained, or whether high turnover rates will persist. Stopping new hires now will only make it more likely that they do.

Also, there are still job opportunities in central Maine – in and out of health care – that pay better than Riverview, so the raises remain necessary to retain employees.

More work is needed, but Riverview appears finally to be headed in the right direction, as long as the governor doesn’t get in the way.