Budget Prospects May Chill State Hospital Hiring

Oregon State Hospital Ward 81, by Mary Ellen MarkFrom OPB.org, November 20 2008

State agencies in Oregon are facing tough choices. They’re looking for ways to cut their budgets after the latest round of gloomy economic projections.

The news is especially disappointing for the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, where officials had been planning to ramp up hiring in a big way.

A federal report earlier this year said the Oregon State Hospital was so understaffed, conditions were unsafe for patients.

In response, officials and lawmakers pledged to hire more than a thousand new workers over the next two years. But hospital Superintendent Roy Orr says the new budget projections are a concern.

Roy Orr: “We may very well have to make concessions in the numbers we would prefer to have in our upcoming budget.”

State Hospital employees like Rosalie Pedroza are also worried. Pedroza says the hospital has a long history of getting short shrift when it comes to state spending:

Rosalie Pedroza: “I guess the option is, we can continue to under staff the hospital and, you know, we’ll still have the dire consequences of the people not getting the care they need.”

State workers will get a clearer picture of what’s in store for them in a couple of weeks.

That’s when Governor Ted Kulongoski proposes his next two-year budget.

(photo Oregon State Hospital Ward 81, 1976, by Mary Ellen Mark)