Employees rally to keep hospital open
By Heather Moore – News 14
RALEIGH — Workers at Dorothea Dix Hospital are continuing their fight to keep the Raleigh mental health hospital open. They say uncertainty about the future of Dorothea Dix and when it will close is scaring away employees, putting more burden on the rest of the staff.
Friday, employees rallied with members of the N.C. Public Service Workers Union at the entrance to Dorothea Dix. “What do we want,” chanted Beverly Moriarty, a registered nurse at Dix. “Keep Dix open,” the assembled crowd replied. Dorothea Dix employees say they’ll rally every Friday at noon until the state decides not to close the hospital.
“To close a hospital when we’re seeing a growth in population seems a great mistake,” Moriarty said while talking through a bullhorn. The state plans to close Dorothea Dix after patients are moved into the new Central Regional Hospital in Butner.
Central Regional was originally scheduled to open last year. To date, the transfer of patients from Dorothea Dix and John Umstead Hospitals to Central Regional has been delayed three separate times. Employees say that has created uncertainty among the staff, causing many of them to find jobs elsewhere.
“I’ll say with honesty I have looked at other positions because of the uncertainty of knowing whether this is going to be here or not,” admitted Brenda Howard, a physician assistant at Dorothea Dix. Employees say that has led to staffing shortages, putting employee and patient safety at risk.
“I am seeing more serious injuries than I’ve ever seen before,” Moriarty said about her staff. “People who are punched in the face, who have broken noses, who have facial lacerations, people who have been knocked and kicked to the floor, have had spinal injuries. We’re seeing people who are bitten.”
“Unfortunately, there always have been some injuries,” explained Dr. Jim Osberg, the chief of the State Operated Services section of the Division of Mental Health. “I’m sure there always will be [injuries] because of the nature of the work.”
Osberg said he’s trying to get funding to hire additional staff. But he says keeping Dorothea Dix open is not the answer to employees’ concerns.
“We need to make this change to take advantage of this wonderful new [Central Regional Hospital] facility that has been developed for patients that actually will be a great benefit,” he said.
The state plans to start moving patients from Dorothea Dix to the new Central Regional Hospital in mid-June. Administrators hope the move is complete by the beginning of July.