Update: State employees honored after snow storm working conditions
Thu, 03 Feb 2011 04:24:07 GMT — Updated: Thursday, Feb. 10 at 3:50: Controversy was sparked over state workers working long hours and having to spend the night in facilities during the snow storm. Those state workers were honored for their dedication Thursday. At the Department of Mental Health's commissioners meeting Thursday morning staff members and their facilities were given a framed certificate as a thank you from the department. The department said the storm prompted voluntary and heroic actions by staff members state wide allowing the facilities to operate safely throughout the entire storm. "We had hundreds of people in our facilities all across the state who made exceptional efforts to get to the facilities, provide the coverage necessary to make sure that our clients were safe, that they were getting all the services they needed, the treatment they needed," director for the Department of Mental Health Keith Schafer said. At one facility a staff member came prepared for the long haul. She brought an inflatable mattress, blankets, a change of clothes and some extra food. Schafer said the storm turned out to be a very positive bonding experience for the department. "Not only was there bonding with other staff who came in and made the sacrifice but actually with a lot of the clients who got involved in the process as well, it was a very positive experience for our facilities actually," Schafer said. Schafer said the employees dedication continued even a fter the storm. Staff members who were not able to make it in during the storm offered to work later in the week to allow their co-workers who graciously covered for them, to have time off, Schafer said. Updated: Thursday, Feb. 3 at 4:54p.m.: We're still trying to figure out what really happened at Fulton State Hospital during the blizzard earlier this week. We have gotten a lot of feed back on the topic and many different opinions. One person even told us when the KRCG car arrived at the hospital the administration started letting employees go home. Another viewer said the workers were under harsh conditions but KRCG was unable to confirm it. "Many workers were held there and told they could not leave without having disciplinary action up to and possibly including dismissal! Workers slept on concrete floors, in their cars - and a few lucky ones were allowed to sleep in a bed on an empty ward," the viewer said. My husband was held there for almost 45hours and not allowed to leave to get clean clothes! Even though they were threatened with losing their jobs if they left, they were not paid for the hours they were forced to sleep there." But on the other hand, some have said even though the conditions weren't ideal, the employees should just be thankful they have a job. "I would have done my best to do just that given the circumstances and be thankful I had a warm place to lay my head," one viewer wrote. "Those people NEED care. They need YOU to survive." Original Story: A state worker spoke out Wednesday night about having to spend the night at the mental health facility in Fulton without pay, while another is upset over having to use emergency time. "It makes me mad, an anonymous female state worker said. I mean we can't get to work. There was a state emergency. Governor Nixon had called that and we were still expected to come to work in the middle of a blizzard? There was no way." The worker said she tried to call in to work during the storm because she couldn't get her car out of her driveway. She said instead of allowing sick time or vacation, administrators made her use emergency time. "We get 24 hours a year and you can use it in an emergency, but if you don't have that emergency time, they automatically consider you AWOL, so you can possibly get written up or terminated," the female employee said. Another employee had a different experience with the facility. "I was actually told that if I left the hospital that I would suffer consequences which would be work abandonment," a male state worker said. State workers said they had to stay at the hospital over night because of the snow, but administrators on Wednesday had a different story. "While people were working other people were being given breaks and time to sleep, but were being encouraged to stay so that we could have adequate staffing for the next shift," Chief Operating Officer of Fulton State Hospital Marty Martin-Forman said. The employee who stayed overnight is frustrated he wasn't paid for all of the hours he spent at the hospital. "It's not like they said I could stay if I wanted to, it's like they said you have to stay here, you can't leave," the male employee said. Administrators disagreed. "When you are not in coverage, when you're not actually providing supervision but you are resting, it's as if you're having a break or resting anywhere, Martin-Forman said. Breaks are not covered, they are not a paid status." Overall Martin-Foreman said she is extremely proud of her employees work and dedication during the winter storm. "I have an incredible crew of dedicated staff who have stayed in there. The staff has always been very mindful of safety at our hospital and very concerned with that and they hung in there. Staffing was at safe levels throughout this emergency. But, I will tell you, it was a difficult 24-hours for all levels of staff who were there," Martin-Forman said. Administrators said if an employee feels any of the policies weren't handled correctly they are encouraged to see their immediate supervisor.We want to know what you think. Should employees required to stay for staffing purposes be paid for all the hours they were at the facility? Sound off in our poll or comment section.