Thursday, November 18, 2010

Report: State Budget Cuts Have Consequences

Specifically, people can die. In case you have missed what is happening in Pueblo here is the background from Jeff Tucker at The Chieftan, 

The Pueblo grand jury has launched an inquiry into deaths at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo...

There have been three deaths at the hospital in the past three years.

 The most recent was that of Troy Geske, 41, who died Aug. 10 in the hospital's forensic unit.

 According to investigators, Geske died from asphyxiation after nurses allegedly restrained him by placing him on his stomach, tying his hands behind his back and tying his feet to his hands.

 In September, Thiebaut said his office was investigating Geske's death and there was public disagreement between... about how Geske was restrained.

 Sergio Taylor, 23, killed himself Sept. 10, 2009.
According to reports, Taylor hanged himself with a plastic bag around his head.

 Joshua Garcia, 21, died Oct. 8, 2007, after a surgical procedure to remove a portion of his colon left him in sceptic shock.

Colorado Department of Human Services hired a 3rd party to investigate and report back with recommendations for improvements at the hospital. The findings are simple - there needs to be more money invested to hire more staff and the employees need their union. Ok, well it doesn't say union specifically but Tucker summarizes the report today,

A third-party report on the practices within the walls of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo cites severe staff shortages and the fear of making suggestions or seeking to improve conditions by staffers as major problems at the hospital.

The report suggests the hospital may be understaffed by as much as 20 percent and recommends that the Colorado Department of Human Services seek increased funding to bring up staff levels...

 The report suggests that it's not just the nursing staff that's doing more with less. Psychiatric staff has fallen "well below" a mandated ratio of one psychiatrist per 18 patients...

 "Not a single staff member of the facility felt empowered in the current organizational structure," the report said. "Interactions are too often motivated by fear. Several staff members reported punitive consequences for expressing disagreement with policies, procedures and clinical care." The report said, "Accountability measures are seen as 'dinging staff members for errors.' ”

The document quotes a recent survey of the staff that said 44 percent of respondents didn't feel free to question the decisions of superiors and were afraid to ask questions "if something didn't feel right."

Slashing the budget and, consequently,  manpower in state government year after year has real consequences. We're not just laying off faceless bureaucrats or tax collectors, we're jeopardizing the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens.And while unions are often criticized for seeking higher wages and benefits in reality they provide a vehicle for employees to improve their workplaces - not just for the employees themselves but also for the public that they serve.

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