Stop Talking and Take Action

A complaint against James Square nursing home, 918 James St., Syracuse, NY. Unit 3 South, Rm. 353.

Unit 3 South is inadequately staffed. Yesterday my call bell was on for 90 minutes without being answered. This morning at 8:10 nobody answered my call bell. I telephoned the nursing station and nobody answered. I called the Director of Nursing and got voice mail. When a nurse—assigned to work as an aide—arrived at 8:30, I asked where my breakfast was.

I have severe diabetes mellitus with a glucose level around 450. I cannot take insulin. The brain functions on glucose. If I am not given meals on time then my brain goes nuts and I become argumentative and abusive. “On time” means breakfast served at 8:00. This morning, breakfast was not served at 8:00. I could not get an aide, a nurse, or the director of nursing to help me.

The 8:30 nurse went and came back with my breakfast. She said it had been sitting on the counter in the kitchen on Unit 3 South.

An aide announced that she was the only aide working the floor. Unit 3-S has 34 beds and is supposed to have four aides on Days. It never has four aides. Hasn’t for months. A large part of the problem is that the last administrator and the last two unit nurse managers were old white women. Most of the aides are young black women. They talk back.

In the past month a temporary new nurse manager has been installed. She is a middle-aged black woman who knows how to get young black women to work properly or get out. Roz Richardson is working hard and doing well but Unit 3-S was so far behind that she still hasn’t been able to fully dig it out of the swamp it had become. Aides are ill-advised to talk back to her.

Temporary Fix

James Square’s biggest problem is failure to communicate.

To the best of my knowledge, there is a Scheduler who schedules the staff. The Scheduler was recently fired and a new one hired. There appears to have been inadequate training.

· At 1:30, if the Scheduler does not have ¾ staffing on every unit for the next day, then it should be referred to the Director of Nursing to make the decisions to ensure that there is a minimum of ¾ staffing. A copy of the next day’s schedule should be in the hands of the night supervisor when she comes on duty.

To the best of my knowledge, aides are supposed to call in if they are not coming to work at 7:00 a.m. A Night Supervisor is supposed to monitor the call-in (call-out?) line. There is no indication that the Night Supervisor is notifying anyone, e.g., my aide who was to be here at 8:30 called in early with a dental abscess. No one on 3-S was notified that she would not be in so I did not receive basic clean-up care.

· Every time the Night Supervisor gets a call-in, she should check the Day’s schedule to see if that drops a unit’s staffing below ¾. If it does, then the Night Supervisor should mandate a Night staff member to stay and work Days until other arrangements can be made.

It appears that no attempt is made to cover staffing at 7:00 when it is needed to get patients toileted, medicated, breakfasted and cleaned up for therapy. It appears that it all waits till administrators come in at 8:00 and start to shift and shuffle employees to float, which doesn’t take place till 8:30. In other words, no patients call bells are answered from 7:00 to 8:30, by which time the one or two staffers who have shown up are so helplessly overwhelmed that they’re ready to quit.

To the best of my knowledge, all administrators, from unit nurse managers on up, are in meetings all morning! It starts with Rounds, then continues on to two other meetings.


No administrative meeting can be held until all patient call bells have been answered. Administrators will provide direct patient care until they can provide appropriate staffing.

Administrative meetings will not be held back-to-back all morning. Only one meeting in the morning and the second meeting in the afternoon.

This morning I was trapped in bed by a misplaced catheter bag. No aide answered my bell. No one in the nursing station answered the phone. The nurse manager put Rounds ahead of answering call bells. The DON wasn’t answering her phone.

What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t get to the toilet, couldn’t escape a fire, and couldn’t get help if I was dying. This morning they called a Code Blue. Who was there to answer it?

How long is the government oversight system going to let this go on? Bad winter weather has increased the number of aides not getting to work. That will continue for weeks, if not months. It happened yesterday, it happened today and there is every reason to think that it will happen again tomorrow.


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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