State health workers demand retention bonuses, safer working conditions as hospitals face staffing shortage

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Doctors and nurses rallied in front of Central Regional Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Butner, demanding retention bonuses and safer working conditions as the hospital faces a shortage of health care workers.  

Dr. Rakesh Patel, a medical doctor at Central Regional Hospital stood with nearly a dozen protesters on Wednesday afternoon.

He is demanding changes as he said the shortage of workers at the hospital has led to unsafe working conditions for the employees. 

“They’re basically exhausted, frightened, and demoralized,” said Patel. 

Patel said the staffing has gotten so low, that in certain units in the psychiatric hospital there is only one nurse per 18 to 20 patients. As a result, he said it has led to more instances where employees have gotten assaulted.  

“They’re being punched, being bit, being grabbed, and shoved,” Patel said. “We’ve noticed a lot more of these events have been happening.” 

Patel said this shortage is also impacting the care they have been able to give to patients.  

“In the geriatric units, we’re having difficulties with consistently feeding our patients and making sure they are toileted,” Patel said. 

At Wednesday afternoon’s rally, hospital employees along with N.C. Public Service Workers Union, U.E. Local 150, demanded retention bonuses to help the hospital keep the staff they have. 

Dr. Patel said if nothing is done about this soon, that some units in the hospital may have to close. 

“We already had one adolescent unit close down because there wasn’t enough staff,” Patel said. “That’s going to affect the residents in North Carolina because they won’t be able to get their loved ones into a state hospital because there are not enough beds that the state can safely operate.” 

CBS 17 reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday about these health workers’ demands. 

Officials with NCDHHS would not answer any direct questions about possible retention bonuses for employees, but they did send the following statement: 

“Staff at Central Regional Hospital and other State-operated healthcare facilities have been true heroes in the fight against COVID-19. We are incredibly grateful for their unwavering commitment and compassionate care for those we serve. Like healthcare systems throughout the nation, NCDHHS healthcare facilities are experiencing increased staffing shortages. NCDHHS is committed to using every available tool in the state human resources policy to retain and attract the necessary staff members we need to ensure critical services our facilities provide endure.”

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