County Commissioners Outsource Jail Nurses

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Come February, inmates in the Franklin County Jail will receive nursing care through a private company. Franklin County Commissioners Tuesday outsourced the jail’s nursing staff. WOSU reports the move is designed to help the county balance its budget.

Officials estimate privatizing the jail’s nursing service will save the county about a million dollars a year. But it’s not sitting well with the county jail nurses.

Three of them showed up to the commissioners’ meeting to plead for their jobs – one literally pleading.

All three commissioners voted “yes” to the outsourcing, but not without saying how difficult the decision was. One nurse gasped, placed her hands over her face and began to cry when the resolution was passed.

That nurse was Renee Hammers, an LPN who has worked at the jail for about six years.

“Money is more important than people’s livelihoods, and it kind of saddens you,” she said.

Thirty-two nurses’ jobs hang in the balance. They’ve been told they’re guaranteed an interview with the nursing contractor – Maxim Healthcare Services. But that does not mean they’ll get a job.

If hired, they say their salary will be cut from about $23 an hour to as little as $16. Marie Dreizen is an LPN at the main jail.

“It’s going to be difficult until actually the whole transition is completed. But as far as I’m concerned, I can’t afford to work for between $16 and $18 an hour. I earned that much 15 years ago,” Dreizen said.

The nurses warned the quality of care could go down with outsourced care. And they say they know how the system – and the inmates – operates. They fear those who are hired will not.

Commissioner John O’Grady said it will be the sheriff’s responsibility to maintain the contract and ensure proper care of inmates.

“Certainly it is a concern we’ll voice on-going and hold the sheriff to like we do all contracts,” O’Grady said.

The transition from county to contracted nurses takes effect in February.