Return to News
by Torie McCloy
Zelma Kelley and Cathy Richards joined seven former certified nursing aides at SunRise Care and Rehabilitation in Salem this week in the unemployment lines, saying they are taking a stand against what they claim are poor healthcare practices at the facility.
The two, with 12 years of work experience between them at the nursing home, turned in their two-week notices on Sept. 10. They were told their services were no longer needed on Sept. 11. Seven other aides resigned on Sept. 1 and worked until Sept. 3.
"They are leading the public to believe that we just walked out and didn't give a notice, but that is wrong," said aide Nancy Cumberledge, who was among the first seven to resign. "We did give a notice. We did not desert the residents. They chose to let us go. They chose to put the residents in jeopardy."
Kelley and Richards said resigning from their jobs without having another source of income wasn't an easy decision. It wasn't made on a whim.
"It was a hard decision to make, but it was hard to work there anymore," Kelley said.
"I love the residents to death," added Richards. "I couldn't stand to see the lack of care."
The aides resigned alleging they could not take proper care of residents because one aide was assigned to 15 residents. They allege they attempted to fix the problem by talking with administrators, but that didn't work.
SunRise officials, however, say they meet all state staffing codes.
"We, at this point, know the facility well and know it is staffed," said Sun Healthcare Spokeswoman Karen Gilliland, adding that the parent company isn't investigating the Salem situation. "Our basic concern is to make sure the patients are cared for. That's our goal and we're achieving it."
Kelley and Richards, who continued to work after the first seven aides left, disagree. The two allege nurses were on the floor performing aide responsibilities.
Gilliland said the facility is doing "whatever it takes to make sure we have the right staff."
The aides said they disagreed with not only staffing but equipment procedures at the facility, as well. They allege it is underequipped and that the closure of the laundry facility from midnight until 4 a.m. often makes it difficult to get proper linens for residents. Under the former nursing home provider, Americare, the laundry was open 24 hours a day.
SunRise Administrator Sheila Clark, who declined comment, sent one employee letter and four letters from residents' relatives to Clarksburg Newspapers. Each letter supports the facility and its operations.
Employee Tamara Kreyenlull wrote in her letter that the primary concern at SunRise is the residents.
"I must say that the comments given by the parties are untrue," she wrote. "We are fully staffed at all times and our residents are well cared for."
Eleanor Pease said her mother, Edna, who was at the facility for 14 months, was always taken care of. She said the room and bed linens were always clean and that all efforts were made to keep her mother happy. Grace Swisher also wrote saying she felt her mother, Garnet Smith, received proper care at the facility.
Richards said the letters didn't surprise her. She alleges some residents, those whose families visit regularly, tend to get better care at the facility. They have someone, she alleged, who fights for decent care.
As for the resignations of nine CNAs, Clark didn't seem concerned.
"CNAs come and go," she said. "We typically don't discuss that."
Aides, however, aren't the only ones with a high turnover rate at the facility. In less than a year since SunRise has operated the Salem nursing home, it has had two directors of nursing and two administrators.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is investigating the complaint it received against the facility and the staffing methods, said Spokeswoman Ann Garcelon.
Sister Anne Francis of Jacob's Well House of Prayer in Salem, who regularly visited residents at SunRise, said she worries that if SunRise is meeting state regulations, then the regulations aren't strict enough.
She wants state lawmakers to intervene in staffing requirements and increase Medicaid payments for residents in nursing homes. Sister Francis said calls she has received since the resignation hit the newspapers show the problem of understaffing is not just a Salem situation.
"I hope that not just SunRise, but with all nursing facilities we can get something done to get more staff," Richards said. "We're not resigning out of spite. We are just trying to get help. One of these days we are going to be old and we may need to be in a facility. I want to be taken care of."