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Old 09-17-2004, 04:42 AM
froggysangel froggysangel is offline
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Default Scrubs Flu Hits Nurses at Prisons


'Scrubs flu' hits nurses at prisons

By Andy Furillo -- Bee Staff Writer
September 8, 2004
Dozens of prison nurses across the state called in
sick Tuesday in an apparent protest over their deadlocked contract
negotiations.More than half of the day-shift nurses at maximum-
security Pelican Bay State Prison - 21 out of 40 - participated in
what state officials believe was a sickout organized by the
California State Employees Association, the Department of Corrections

Seventeen out of 19 nurses came down with "scrubs flu" at the
Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. An additional 14
called in sick at the California Correctional Institution in Teha
chapi and seven out of 10 nurses didn't make it to work at California
State Prison, Solano.

Altogether, nurses called in sick at inordinately high rates at 13
prisons across the state. Corrections officials said they experienced
no disruption in their routine operations Tuesday, shuffling
supervisors into line jobs and calling in contract registry nurses to
fill in on some of the shifts."Everybody's operating normally,"
Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.Nurses' bargaining unit
representative Christina Rodriguez said Tuesday's job action was not
sanctioned by the union, but that state nurses in the departments of
mental health and developmental services, as well as corrections, are
reaching a boiling point."State nurses have had enough," she said. "We've been bargaining with the state but nobody's listening to us. We want quality patient care, safe staffing and fair wages."The sickout came almost a month
after contract talks stalled on Aug. 11 between the nurses' union and
the state Department of Personnel Administration. The contract that
covers the 3,700 state nurses, including 900 who work in corrections,
expired July 1.

Even though the contract expired, the administration gave the nurses
5 percent raises. According to state negotiators, the prison nurses
countered by demanding an immediate 26 percent pay raise, elimination
of forced overtime, seniority rights on job assignments and an
elimination of management authority to change shift assignments, days
off and vacation schedules.Since the 5 percent pay hike, state nurses
earn an average $4,782 a month, according to the Department of
Personnel Administration.

Union officials say the pay scale is far below community nursing jobs
in private and public sectors and has resulted in a 25 percent
vacancy rate in the prisons alone.In an Aug. 13 letter to the union,
state labor relations chief David Gilb said he had no choice but to
reject the CSEA's Aug. 11 proposal."We would like to reach an
agreement with you," Gilb wrote. "But reaching such an agreement does
not require us to abandon our interests as management, nor as
stewards of the taxpayers' money."About the Writer

The Bee's Andy Furillo can be reached at (916) 321-1141 or
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Old 09-18-2004, 10:05 AM
crstdrvn crstdrvn is offline
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Well, I will probably get shot down for this one, but I'm going to say it anyway.

As a nurse who looked into what the California DOC nurses are paid (just out of curiosity) I was really shocked to learn just how underpaid they are. Considering how much the CO's are paid when they don't even have a college education or license, I would expect prison nurses to be paid much, much more, just taking into consideration the risk of where they work, if nothing else...not to mention what unskilled workers in the same industry are paid.

There has always been this understanding among nurses (not that it is right) that if you are going to work in the public sector you will make less money----but still, what prison nurses make is amazingly less than what they should be making.

I work in the public sector, and as such, make much less money than a nurse in the private sector, despite the fact that I have been a nurse forever and I'm at the top of the pay scale. Those of us who work in the public sector have been fighting this fight for a long time.

Why should I as a nurse be paid less to work for the government than if I work in the private sector? Especially when working conditions in the private sector are so much better, the nurse receives so much more autonomy and support, and the nurse can actually advocate and effect change that will benefit patients? None of that exists in the public sector.

A nurse in the private sector can work 3 days a week and make more than a DOC nurse does working full time. Far more. And get the same quality of benefits.

For me, it was a matter of my being willing to make that sacrifice to work in an area of nursing that I am passionate about. Sometimes money isn't everything. But even I, who cares much less about money than most nurses, would not be willing to work for the wages that Corrections offers. Especially considering the other problems that exist within the medical system of the prison industry. Not when their system puts patient's lives and my license on the line. And not when the system is set up so that I cannot make changes to improve things.

I have a problem with CO's fighting for higher wages when they do not have any education or license, nor are they in the business of health care (people's lives in their hands) and they do the job so poorly. But I do not have a problem with nurse's asking for a fair wage and better conditions.

It is my understanding from nurses in that system that most of the medical neglect that occurs in the prisons is not due to the nurse's negligence but due to the system itself, starting with the CO's preventing patients from getting care and moving right on down to the poorly set up system where nurses have no right to advocate for care, and where the doctor's are sometimes negligent or lack skill in their area of practice.

I also believe that each licensed health care professional (doc, nurse, or therapist) has a duty to practice responsibly and if they are in a situation where they cannot, to make the changes so that they can or to get out. Maybe this is the start of that. I know that prison nurses just had a powerful seminar in San Francisico where they were called to that task and reminded of their oath and responsiblilty. I hope that's what this is all about, anyway.

The prison healthcare system is a sucky place to be right now if one values other's lives and his/her license. I say more power to 'em!
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Old 09-18-2004, 10:18 AM
SGT Anonymous SGT Anonymous is offline
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I agree that the Prison Nurses are way underpaid for the job they do. I would also like to add that most of the time the issues with the Medical Department in Prison are the Doctors and the Policy itself.
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Old 09-18-2004, 10:15 PM
crstdrvn crstdrvn is offline
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Right on Sgt! That's what I was trying to say..most of the problems are with the docs and the policy, not with the nurses themselves. The ones I have talked to are incredibly frustrated with the policy (the system) and with the docs.

I might actually enjoy correctional nursing at some point, it could be a chance to make a difference, you know? There certainly is a need for good nurses in corrections as most of the good ones are leaving if they can. But right now, you couldn't get me to put my license on the line the way the system is set up....it's downright scary.
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Old 09-18-2004, 11:40 PM
SGT Anonymous SGT Anonymous is offline
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Hard to make a difference when you are so limited by policy. Right now they can only do so much without a Doctor. If you can get a hold of one, and if they decide they want to come in.
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Old 09-19-2004, 06:35 AM
sweetthang sweetthang is offline
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CMC lost one of the most dedicated doctors in the system when she requested one day off a week to open an HIV clinic in town funded by the local hospital. CMC told her all the way or no way. She chose no way. What a loss. It's a shame a system so desperate for good, qualified help could squander one who had gone so far above and beyond the job requisites at the prison and would be using that day "off" to provide a service that would have benefited not only the general public, but CMC as well as they use that facility in town as necessary to treat inmates. She too worked more to fulfill her personal ideals than for the money. It is a shame that the CDC pay scale is so shabby they cannot attract medical employees any better than mediocre at best and then throw away the truly committed albeit rare ones. I knew it was bad, but I didn't have any idea it was as bad as crstdrvn found.

I went to the hospital to personally thank her for the superb quality of care she had given my husband so that she would know at least two people had truly appreciated her efforts.
It's not the hours you put in, it's what you put in the hours.
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