‘It’s a crisis’: Employees say of less staff, more patients at NC-run psych hospitals

North Carolina

BUTNER, N.C. (WNCN) – Eight health care workers were injured while taking care of their patients at the state psychiatric hospital in Butner.

Some employees at Central Regional Hospital told CBS 17 there were patient-led attacks at the state-run psychiatric hospital.

They said they’re scared for their safety and are tired and overworked.

One employee said sometimes there are 21 patients for a single nurse.

They want something changed soon before even more people get hurt.

“I was hit on the right side of my face. It caught me off guard, so at this point, I’m staggering off balance,” said Terrance Pinkett. “In the process, I hit my head and injured my back.”

Pinkett was attacked on Oct. 29

He was one of just two therapeutic support specialists on duty for his maximum-security unit.

Pinkett got a concussion and had injuries to his back, arm, and finger.

It’s a story that’s too familiar for employees at some state-run health care facilities.

“I do not feel safe,” said Jessica Gazso, a pharmacy technician at Central Regional Hospital. “I actually am escorted to a few of those wards.”

“It’s a crisis in DHHS,” added Sekia Royall, a food service assistant at the O’Berry Center.

The crisis? Less staff, more patients.

“We definitely have seen a rise in numbers in our psych hospitals,” explained Royall. “DHHS facilities are understaffed, and the workers are overworked, underpaid, and it’s becoming a hazard for the patients and the workers.”

In September, a report from the local North Carolina Public Service Workers Union indicated there were numerous vacancies among DHHS facilities.

At Central Regional Hospital, the report showed 81 registered nurses and 74 health care technicians were needed.

In total, there were 185 open jobs.

Employees told CBS 17 they also need more money to make them want to stay under current conditions.

“It’s becoming a hazard for the patients and the workers,” said Royall.

“People would want to stay [with a raise], instead of leaving all the time for better jobs,” added Gazso.

The local union, UE 150, is meeting with state health leaders on Tuesday night, to go over their report which details the attacks and their requests for a better work environment.

They are hoping they get the retention bonuses, raises, and staff ratio changes soon, to keep both patients and employees safe.

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