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Voice of OC reports on low morale and safety issues facing nurses and doctors at OC Jails

Norberto Santana, Jr. of the Voice of Orange County reported today on problems of high turnover, low morale and safety concerns that have been raised by OC Health Care Agency nurses and doctors working in the Orange County Jails. Santana reports:

Another “no-confidence” vote is making the rounds among the staff at the Orange County Correctional Medical Services division, which provides primary and specialty medical care for thousands of inmates across the county’s jail system.

This is the same division that has triggered a series of grand jury reports in recent years along with a critical look last year from the county performance auditor after two controversial deaths.

Both inquiries into the Correction Medical Services division found problems with equipment, staffing and communication from managers. And a year later, the union representing medical workers at the jails says things have gotten worse. The no-confidence vote hovers at 96 percent, officials disclosed this week.

Staffers are experiencing historic low morale, union officials argue in official letters sent to the Health Care Agency this summer. Doctors won’t take the job, and nurses are being left alone in the field and are confronted nightly with needlessly dangerous situations.

Mauk questioned the validity of the 96 percent signature rate on the petition of no-confidence. He also said this episode of discontent was probably more closely related to the recent appointment of a new medical director.

New managers typically change how things are done, Mauk said. And that triggers friction, which has to be managed. Yet Mauk acknowledges that the nurses’ vote is likely a signal that managers aren’t handling things as well as they could be.

As we saw with the recent riot in Juvenile Hall, it is important that staffing levels be maintained and that employees have a safe and secure environment to work in. I believe that Mr. Mauk’s characterization of the concerns being a result of hiring a new director recklessly obscures real problems. There are solutions to these problems but it appears that after years of pointing out the problems, they still are unresolved and increasing in urgency of solution.

Read the complete story “Low Morale, Safety Worries Continue to Plague Jail Doctors, Nurses.”