Of course, Abele tries to rationalize his inhumane treatment of these vulnerable citizens by calling it "best practices."
As part of Abele's agenda, he hired Kathy Eilers to come in and close the complex down. When the Milwaukee County Board rejected her nomination, Abele felt so strongly about it that he again hired Eilers through a contract basis, a privilege allowed to him via Act 14, the law that allowed him to usurp power in Milwaukee County.
As far as anyone can tell, Eilers only contribution has been to have a town hall meeting with the workers at the complex where she gleefully told them that they all would be gone in a few years. This has the predictable outcome of workers looking for new jobs and taking them when they could find them.
This only worsened the already chronic staffing shortage that was happening during the time Scott Walker was county executive and got more severe under Abele's watch.
Now it has reached the boiling point.
The nurses union went to the courthouse last Wednesday to deliver a petition signed by more than a hundred workers, listing ten items that Abele needed to do immediately to relieve this crisis. They also issued the following press release:
At 1pm today, on the front steps of the Courthouse, dozens of Milwaukee County Mental Health nurses and frontline staff will stand up for their patients speaking out to protest unsafe staffing. The nurses will demand that County Executive Abele take immediate action to fill the dozens of RN and Nursing Assistant vacancies, and put an end to the dangerous and widespread practice of forcing nursing staff to work massive amounts of involuntary overtime. The nurses will also present the County Executive with a petition, signed by over a hundred workers, which includes a list of 10 corrective actions; and, demand he take immediate action to correct the unsafe staffing, including reducing the hospital census until such time adequate staff is hired and trained to care for patients with severe mental illness.As one would expect, Abele was conveniently "unavailable" (read "too scared to meet with the nurses"). Then again, since it was in the afternoon, Abele was probably at the University Club unwinding with Julia Taylor, Sheldon Lubar and Joe Sanfelippo.
The nurses met with Abele on April 10th to tell him how unsafe the hospital had become and presented him with a list of actions that needed to be taken to ensure the safety of the staff and the patients. On May 1st Abele also received written communication from Local 5001 President, Jeff Weber, R.N., which listed eight specific actions that would improve the dangerous conditions; but, as of today, no response has been received, either to the meeting or the letter. “Each and every day the staff at BHD do amazing work under dangerous and unsafe conditions. As the frontline caregivers, we are calling upon the County Executive to take immediate action to ensure the safety of the patients and staff,” said Jeff Weber, R.N.
Weber explained, “The number of nurses and nursing assistants leaving the mental health center has reached epidemic numbers, made significantly worse by grossly inadequate recruiting practices. A simple retention bonus is not the answer, as we see nurses quitting before they even begin.”
Forced overtime has also reached epidemic levels with hundreds of RNs and nursing assistants forced to work a second eight-hour shift after they finish their scheduled shift. Mandatory overtime has been outlawed in many hospitals because it has been linked with medical errors, hospital infections and patient falls—all things that cost lives. Jeff Weber, RN, went on to say, “It’s unconscionable that the County Executive has done nothing to prevent this staffing problem from reaching this crisis level.”
Even though Abele was on the run, the media was there to cover the story, with a very good report done by WITI-TV.
One thing that the media didn't address is the fact that even though the county is utilizing pools and staffing agencies, the shortage is so great that shifts are going unfilled, increasing the danger for patients and staff alike. There is somewhere in the area of 45-50 openings for certified nursing assistants alone.
I'm sorry, but there is no way that anyone who allowed this crisis to happen in the first place, much less go on for this long without even trying to seriously address it, should be bantering around terms like "best practice" without specifying who they are best for.
Because whoever this dereliction of duty is best for, it sure as hell aren't the patients or the staff or the taxpayers.