Emotional meeting in Dayton followed by resignations

The aftermath of last week's meeting of the Columbia County Public Hospital District board continues to be felt.

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DAYTON -- In the aftermath of an emotional meeting attended by more than 100 people last week, two more nurses at Dayton General Hospital have submitted resignations. One is Director of Nursing Services Virginia Romine, who was the object of many of the negative comments made at the hospital board meeting.

The other nurse is Michelle Cochran, who will leave the hospital June 15 after 14 years to work at the Washington State Penitentiary, where she said she will receive better benefits and more pay.

Cochran said the hospital "was becoming an unpleasant place to work, with the supervision we had, and the shortage of nurses."

"If they had started sooner trying to correct the problem, or listened to us, I think I'd still be working there. We had just been pretty much ignored. It wouldn't have gotten to this point, with the whole community having to get involved," Cochran said of the Thursday meeting.

"That was a pretty impressive board meeting. I've never seen anything like that," Cochran said.

Romine was also stunned by the proceedings Thursday. "I've never seen anything like that meeting before."

Romine said it was difficult to sit through the meeting, because things were said that were not true, but she was unable to rebut what was said because of restraints regarding privacy of patients and employees.

Romine said the comments that were made about wanting only Dayton people to work in the hospital was what made her decide to resign.

"This whole out-of-towner, we want only the locals, that is a small-town mentality and there is no way to fight that," Romine said.

As the nursing supervisor, it was Romine's job to hire and fire nurses and nursing assistants. The turnover rate at the hospital has been much higher than it is this year, she said. In 2007 it was 72 percent. "It's high. It's shocking, but that happens," she said.

In 2009 the turnover rate was over 50 percent, and this year is about 40 percent, she said. Some of the turnover is because positions were eliminated.

Reasons for terminations might include drug use, tardiness and absenteeism, Romine said.

Romine is confident she will find another job. "I have been an RN for 25 years. There are just too many options for a good RN to put up with what I heard," she said.

Romine praised the hospital district chief executive officer, Charlie Button, as an excellent administrator, and characterized the board of directors as intelligent and involved.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.



Special Meeting

The Columbia County Public Hospital District board of directors will hold a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in the board room in the administration building. Purpose of the meeting is to take comments from hospital employees and the public. The board may also discuss the hiring of a mediator.

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