In December, we held a statewide “Meet & Discuss” with the Department of Corrections (DOC). Many members were able to participate in the meeting through the DOC’s video conferencing system.
The DOC began the meeting discussing the contract with Correct Care Solutions. This contract for the management of prison health services has, in the past, included the option of providing nursing services. This year it did not. The new contract is for five years with five additional one-year renewal options which they believe puts off the possibility of privatization for 10 years.
Prior to meeting, we asked for information about vacancies and staffing at prisons across the state. Statewide the vacancy rate is 11% and some facilities have major problems:
- SCI Muncy has a 31% vacancy rate;
- SCI Camp Hill is at 30%;
- SCI Huntingdon is at 27%; and
- Several other facilities are in double digits.
We discussed the importance of filling vacant positions and pointed to information showing that three positions have been vacant since 2013, four since 2014, and seven for more than six months of 2015. In all, there are 39 budgeted positions that need to be filled.
We also raised concerns about mandatory overtime and recruitment and retention issues in the DOC.
The DOC is open to moving to 12-hour shift schedules, which many nurses prefer and is especially helpful in rural areas where people have long commutes and would prefer to make that trip fewer days each week. SCI Forest has put together a 12-hour shift agreement and RNs are encouraged to create draft schedules and propose this at local labor-management meetings if interested.
We also discussed hiring more PRN positions and the possibility of creating a regional PRN pool. We raised the possibility of permitting nurses to pick up extra shifts at nearby facilities. While the preference would be to use the facility’s own nurses first, in instances where there are facilities with greater needs close to facilities with less-available overtime, it makes sense to encourage ways to fill shifts with volunteers.
The DOC will be holding a webinar with supervisory staff and plan to remind them of procedures to avoid mandatory overtime such as calling in agency staff and making all efforts to find volunteers first.