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Monroe County Moves to Address Staffing Issues at MCH and Long-Term Care

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Monroe Community Hospital. Credit: monroehosp.org

Monroe County is taking action to address staff turnover at Monroe Community Hospital.

On April 26, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced several steps to keep and recruit staff at the long-term care facility:

  • pay increases for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants;
  • creation of leadership positions for advancement of current and future employees; and
  • creation of a nursing recruiter position;

Bello also announced that a task force on long-term care would be convened by the regional health planning agency Common Ground Health.

The county received authorization for the pay increases and the new positions earlier in April from the Civil Service Commission.

The announcement came several days after the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature called for an investigation into staffing issues at MCH.

The caucus issued a statement in response to Bello’s announcement:

“We are glad that the Bello Administration has listened to the workers that voiced their concerns to us and it is a reminder that when somebody speaks up, they will be heard,” said Black and Asian Democratic Caucus Leader Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.

“While I applaud the County Executive for taking these steps, this does not eliminate the need for a governing board, and the whistle-blower’s allegations must still be investigated,” said Democrat Vincent R. Felder, who frequently aligns with the caucus. “The proposed pay increases, nurse recruiting position, and career pipeline program will help workers live and work comfortably without the fear of missing a bill or being a victim of a toxic workplace.

A spokesman for Bello said the county executive had been working on the staff issue prior to the Black and Asian Caucus calling for an investigation. The spokesman did not comment on the statement from the caucus.

In a news release about the efforts, Bello said COVID-19 worsened an existing problem “that can no longer go unaddressed.” He said his administration and MCH leadership have been developing a strategy “to improve the pipeline of nursing and support staff” at the facility.

Wade Norwood, chief executive officer of Common Ground Health, said the long-term care system has not kept up with the increasing number of older adults. He said the task force would create a plan that includes recruiting, training and retaining a diverse workforce for skilled nursing and home health care.

On April 14, the caucus and Felder called for an investigation into allegations of staff shortages at MCH.

Flagler-Mitchell shared a letter dated Feb. 4 that claimed care was compromised because staff had to cover other units and were faced with mandatory overtime or risk reprimands, and heat in the building was inconsistent.

Flagler-Mitchell called for an investigation by the county Office for Public Integrity into:

  • whether personal protective equipment had been provided since the beginning of the pandemic;
  • the number of staff let go since the pandemic;
  • how many staff and residents contracted COVID and how many residents died from the virus;
  • the heating and working conditions; and
  • whether the MCH administration knew of the allegations in the letter and had done anything to address them.

Flagler-Mitchell asked for a timeframe for the investigation and for a report to the legislature.

On April 26, a spokesman for the caucus said the Office of Public Integrity had begun an investigation.

In March, the state Department of Health investigated allegations concerning MCH and inspectors cited multiple deficiencies, including some related to staffing. A spokesman said the investigation was ongoing and did not provide additional comment.

In an unrelated move, the Monroe County Legislature voted at its April 13 meeting to approve a $500,000 settlement in a lawsuit stemming from an incident at the facility in 2013. The details were confidential.