What’s going on at MCF?
MANISTIQUE – It appears as though problems persist at the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility. After receiving what was touted as an essential millage from county voters, various SCMCF employees appeared during Tuesday’s Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting to voice concern over continuing trouble at the facility.
This time, the employees, who spoke during a public comment period, said the problem lies with the SCMCF administration, which has been out of touch with the staff. In fact, employees allege those in supervisory positions are currently considering creating another position within administration – a move they consider a slap in the face as they remain understaffed and overworked.
Cleo Wills, a nurse within the facility, noted that the employees had taken 5 to 7 percent pay cuts and compensatory time off and a $200 bonus due in June had been put on hold to assist the facility while it was seeking the millage to stay afloat financially.
“When employees took concessions to keep our facility open, we were promised by management, (SCMCF) board members, with a county commissioner present, that no new jobs would be created until employees receive their concessions back,” she explained. “Yesterday, we were told by management they will be creating a new job for administration.”
The new position would be created for SCMCF employee Candy Wyatt, Wills said, who had used her administrator’s license while Atlanta, Mich., resident Michael Stephenson, the director of administration and finance, earned his own license.
“It was promised she would return to the floor as a LPN (licensed nurse practitioner) once Mike (Stephenson) received his administrator’s license,” she explained.
The staff also attended a meeting in which it was announced employees would receive none of their concessions back, Wills added.
“Every department works understaffed, from housekeeping all the way up to the kitchen, nursing, CNAs (certified nurse assistant), you name it, we all work understaffed,” she said. “We provide direct care to the elders at the facility, and yet management feels it’s important to create an administration job instead of putting more CNAs on the floor.”
The SCMCF had 10 CNAs on the afternoon shift right before the financial fall out, Wills explained, now, due to cutbacks and an illness, there are only eight CNAs on the floor for the current 67 residents of the facility. This had led to more falls and injuries among the elders.
Mary Demers, a LPN at the facility, noted that the budget cutbacks not only hit staffing levels, but also appeared in the form of menu and snack items being eliminated from the elders’ options. There is currently only one working ice machine in the facility, and the dishwasher and walk-in freezer are both broken and cannot be fixed due to cuts in the maintenance staff, she added.
Another sticking point is the fact that those holding the administrator positions, as well as a couple of the new hires on the floor, are all from out of county, Demers said.
“All of the top administrator positions are held by people who do not live in our … county,” she said. “They’re not advertising in our paper for jobs for people in this county to take.”
She added that while the facility has only 67 of 80 beds currently filled, many of the admissions are “high-skilled” residents, who require more care.
Jill Weber, speaking on behalf of her father, who has been at the facility since August, said she has encountered nothing but problems.
“It goes back to patient care – it’s affecting patient care,” she said. “They’re (staff) running back and forth – I actually see them run …
I’ll stand there night after night, day after day. I see about five lights (calls for assistance), I see people falling – there’s just not enough people.”
She noted that none of the residents are getting as much personal time as they need, as there are only two nurses during the day, and two at night.
“We just passed this millage; we need to step it up. These patients need a voice,” she said. “Most people that I talk to are afraid to speak up, because they’re afraid it’s going to affect how they’re … loved one is going to be cared for. Patients make the money for (SC)MCF. If it wasn’t for the patients, we’d be bankrupt.”
While at the voting booth, Weber said she struggled with the decision of whether or not to vote for the facility’s millage, but eventually decided to vote “yes” and hope for a change.
“My dad doesn’t have long left, and it’s sad that this is his last place to be,” she said. “I have to go down there and check and make sure everything’s going on because they don’t have time to do it. That’s not fair.”
Commissioner Dan LaFoille suggested employees voice their concern to the SCMCF board, since the county board does not have control over the facility.
“We don’t want it to be like it once was, where folks were afraid to speak up,” he said. “The only way things are going to be addressed are if you do, in fact, speak up.
The community has entrusted us to take the millage … and use it properly to sustain the life of our medical care facility,” he added. “I have great confidence that the … (SC)MCF board will take these things into consideration and conversation will be had.”
Jackie Heath, one of the newest of the three-member SCMCF board, was present at the meeting and explained the fear of speaking out has to stop.
“We’re all adults, we’re not kindergarteners any more, we have to get together and work together to make the facility work,” she said. “I want to go forward; I want to take it from where we are to make it where you want to go to work.”
Other audience members, some past and present members of the facility, encouraged the SCMCF board to visit the facility and actually walk through to witness the understaffing and other issues. They also questioned when the millage funds would be collected and available for use.
Schoolcraft County Treasurer Julie Roscioli explained the millage funds would start trickling in at the end of December, as county residents begin paying their taxes.
“In my opinion, there shouldn’t be any spending beyond what’s necessary to run the facility right now,” she said. “In my personal opinion, the first thing that should be spent is giving back to the people who gave up.”
Commissioner Sue Cameron recommended employees attend the next SCMCF board meeting on Nov. 26 at 9 a.m. and possibly have a spokesperson go in to represent them.