May 27, 2024

Most Corrections Health staff have no confidence in their current bosses, the Oregon Nurses Association said

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nurses at Multnomah County jails are demanding commissioners to oust the administrators leading the Corrections Health Department.

The Oregon Nurses Association made their demands in a letter sent to Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, Health Department Director Rachael Banks and the county’s five commissioners on Thursday.

According to the letter, 95% of corrections nurses who were surveyed in February said their workplace conditions hadn’t improved within the past four years. About 97% of respondents also returned a vote of no confidence in the current leaders.

The nurses reported they had expressed their concerns during more than 10 meetings with CH administrators between June 2023 and January of this year, but they have yet to see management address their issues.

Specifically, ONA said CH is facing a staffing shortage despite the county adding 20 new positions. The organization partially attributes the staffing issues to the health department’s leadership.

The current director was accused of being underqualified for their position, creating a hostile work environment and leaving for over a month “in the midst of a crisis in CH with multiple deaths, the loss of multiple prescribing clinicians, and known crisis in Nurse staffing.”

In the letter, nurses alleged CH’s former senior clinical manager — who has since been demoted to nursing supervisor — frequently missed scheduled meetings, “behaved erratically to the point that staff were concerned with possible substance abuse issues” and was arrested twice over endangering public safety.

ONA is calling for the director and nursing supervisor’s termination. The organization also asked Multnomah County commissioners to prohibit the former operations manager from holding another leadership position due to “gross mismanagement.”

The organization additionally said staff in corrections healthcare worked 563 forced overtime shifts throughout 2023.

“Between an explosion of fentanyl use and a lingering physical and psychological toll from the COVID epidemic, CH and its Multnomah County clients are dealing with particularly unprecedented challenges,” ONA wrote. “CH needs strong leaders who are willing and able to navigate us through these difficult times and ensure the best possible health outcomes for the population we serve.”

The letter also called for higher pay for nurses, and insisted they be included in the hiring process.

In a statement, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson told KOIN 6 that ONA representatives have declined her multiple attempts at meeting to discuss nurses’ concerns from Apr. 9 — which she said were not highlighted in the recent letter.

“I want to make sure their concerns are heard by me, this board and this organization,” Vega Pederson added. “All of us are committed to the safety and health of everyone in our detention centers. The health and well-being of employees and the people they provide healthcare for in custody are a priority. I am also interested in receiving more details about ONA’s recent survey that haven’t yet been provided.”

She noted that CH has hired 14 new employees and re-hired 15 on-call nurses to address staffing concerns.

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