Local News

Health worker: Butner hospital opening is ‘heading for a train wreck’

Posted May 29, 2008
Updated May 30, 2008

— "We're heading for a train wreck." That's what a mental health worker told lawmakers Thursday night about the opening of Central Regional Hospital in Butner.

The workers met with legislators, legal experts and community leaders in Raleigh to ask that the hospital's opening be delayed a year.

“I think we make a mistake if we don't listen to people who actually work in those situations,” said Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson.

Workers said the new hospital will be understaffed and dangerous.

"The place is not safe at all,” Dorthea Dix Hospital worker Margaret Pettifored said.

"Under-staffing, mandatory overtime. We have an increase in patient and staff injuries," Bell said.

The workers also rallied Thursday outside of the Wake County Office Park on Carya Drive, where their meeting was to take place.

They said existing problems at Dorthea Dix will only be exacerbated when the Butner facility opens on July 1. Dix will close on the same date, and patients will be moved to the new hospital, beginning in mid June.

"We always need more help,” Pettifored said.

Central's opening was delayed once in January after patient advocates complained the move was happening too fast and an internal review found 30 types of hazards at the new hospital.

DHSS officials admitted that staffing will be a challenge in the new hospital, but said they will be able to meet it.

"Patients are always first,” said Larsene Taylor, a health-care technician at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro and chair of the North Carolina Public Service Workers' Union  chapter for workers in the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state will keep 60 beds open at the Dix campus for about three years to help with the transition to the new hospital.

The entire state's mental health-care system has been under fire lately amid years of claims of wasted money, inadequate services and patient neglect and abuse.


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  • beachboater May 30, 2008

    I read in a local hospital about another state mental facility recently. They were wanting collective bargaining there also. That article stated that the staff patient ratio should be 5 to 1. That's 5 staff members to 1 patient.

    Presently, they were slightly short of that and were complaining. Even with 3 shifts a day, 5 to 1 seems to be pretty long odds. If it's necessary it's necessary, but I need some convincing.

    As far as state employees getting collective bargaining, you might as well shut down all state agencies.......oh wait a minute.......that might be a good thing.

  • TechRescue May 30, 2008

    There are a lot of problems with this hospital. That's what happens when you have an incompetent Governor who chooses a design committee, architect, and contractor with no experience in designing mental hospitals. Heck, it's only what - $50-60 million in errors? A small price to pay.....

  • fbguru May 30, 2008

    I work in healthcare (Physical Therapy) and have treated workers who will be transferring to the new facility. They all say it's "not ready" to be opened and have given specifics like, the windows on the second and above floors don't even have bars and are low to the ground. They say at the old facility, all windows have bars because patients WILL try to open them and jump or get out. I don't know if this has been addressed but I think the workers have legitimate concerns. There are "bad apples" in every occupation, but I think for the most part, especially the long-timers, these workers genuinely care about the patients AND each other.

  • Adelinthe May 30, 2008

    rand321 - I agree, unless someone in the government elsewhere told her to do it.

    If not, let's tear it into strips and use it for toilet paper.


    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe May 30, 2008

    I think the whole system of caring for folks with mental illnesses in this sick state is a train wreck already.

    NC clearly doesn't care for their disabled, elderly, or children, why should these folks be any different?

    Can hardly wait until I retire (1 more year) and can move back to PA. Sure, they have all kinds of gambling there, but every cent the state makes on gambling goes to programs for the elderly and disabled.

    Shame on NC, where the good old boy network has gone quiet but is still strong and healthy.

    Packing already.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • housemanagercary May 30, 2008

    Geez... You know its bad when the employees are rallying saying the new facility will be a "train wreck".

  • rand321 May 30, 2008

    The hospital cannot meet its mission when the director is busy taking money away from patient activites for portraits of herself, naming conference rooms after her self, etc.

    she is more concerned with her IMAGE than the patients and taxpayers of NC.

    She needs to GO!!!!

    Benton should also see if she posed for her portraits on state time or afterhours.if during the state time, she should pay that moeny back.

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus May 30, 2008


    I don't think you have the slightest clue what kind of dangers mental health workers face every day. Many of the patients are violent, extremely sick, and have basically been kicked out of every other facility that can possibly take care of them (including jail, in some cases). Maybe you smell a rat when you hear the word "safety" because of some misplaced fear of unions, but personally I smell an employee who wants nothing more than to come home at night without injuries or worse. If that's unfair, then you my friend have a warped view of the world. Pay to have this done now, the right way, or pay later when untreated patients start shooting up our colleges, shopping malls, etc.

  • Scubagirl May 30, 2008

    ""Patients are always first,” "
    I believe the dollar comes first! If staff says they need more help then they do. I left hospital work because the dollar ruled not patient care

  • OLD PIRATE 2 May 30, 2008

    These people do a good job with our mentally challenged in NC. However I smell a rat when they all use the "safety" catch phrase of "the union"... Someone in all that group of speakers should have had one original reason for more staffing.
    If you think you need a union, ask the 5500 people in Roanoke RApids who are no longer working in their mills.