Oregon State Hospital furloughs will stand

From the Salem Statesman Journal, August 12, 2010

Governor, DHS director reject legislator’s appeal to cancel days for front-line hospital staffers

A state legislator has called for Gov. Ted Kulongoski to cancel furlough days for workers on the front lines of patient care at the Oregon State Hospital.

But Kulongoski and Human Services Director Bruce Goldberg nixed the idea outright, saying it’s not warranted at this time.

Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, who serves on the State Hospital Advisory Board, said in a recent letter to the governor that the money-saving furlough program, applied across-the-board to state workers since October, has backfired at the Salem psychiatric facility.

“Not only will this measure NOT save the state money but it further exacerbates the already troublesome mandatory overtime situation and also threatens patient safety,” she stated in a July 19 letter to the governor.

READ – Carolyn Tomei’s letter to Ted Kulongoski, July 19, 2010

READ – Ted Kulongoski’s response to Carolyn Tomei, August 9, 2010

In May, Tomei, chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, conducted a legislative hearing that delved into OSH problems, including lapses in patient care and worker complaints about mandatory overtime.

In her recent letter to Kulongoski, Tomei said: “Imposing furlough time on front-line workers at the hospital forces other workers into more mandatory overtime, increasing salary costs and placing additional stress on workers and their families. Often, trained caregivers are forced to work shifts of 16 hours straight, twice per week.

“Furlough time also increases the use of temporary hires who are unfamiliar with the patients on the wards,” she wrote. “Because of their mental health conditions, OSH patients are especially fragile and need well-trained, consistent caregivers. Moreover, at least one of the recent deaths at the hospital may be attributed to untrained staff filling in during furlough time.”

Tomei urged the governor to grant furlough exemptions for OSH employees who provide direct patient care.

“I hope you will give thoughtful reconsideration to the imposition of furlough days on direct patient care personnel at the Oregon State Hospital,” she said.

This week, Kulongoski said in a response letter to Tomei that OSH is rapidly hiring new front-line workers and taking other action to reduce mandatory overtime.


Front-line staffers in Oregon State Hospital’s forensic program logged 17,162 hours of mandatory overtime in the months of April, May, June and July, compared with 4,452 hours during those same months in 2009.

A monthly breakdown of the forced OT hours:

April: 4,104
May: 5,493
June: 5,116
July: 2,449

April: 507
May: 1,359
June: 1,065
July: 1,521