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Riverview Employees Share Concerns About Working Conditions

AUGUSTA, Maine — A few dozen employees of Riverview Psychiatric Center came to a forum here Tuesday night to share their concerns about the hospital.

Riverview lost federal certification in 2013 due to safety violations, and follow-up reports by an independent consultant have found persistent staffing issues.

Mental health worker Shelby Moreau says the lack of staff leads to mandatory overtime, and that she was mandated to work 16 hours on a recent Saturday.

“Sunday they called me and said, ‘We’re sorry. We’ve called all around. There’s nothing we can do. You need to stay for another 16 hours,’” she says. “That’s 32 hours of work with four and a half hours of sleep.”

Acuity specialist Jodi French says her job is to prevent or diffuse potentially dangerous situations, but she frequently has to fill staffing holes in other roles — and even then, there’s often not enough staff on the floor with patients.

“If you only have two staff on, and somebody comes up to me and wants to talk to me, I have to say, ‘I’m sorry — I can’t do that right now. I have to do checks,’ or ‘I have to stay at the desk,’” she says.

Nurse Eric Hewett says Riverview doesn’t provide adequate training to ensure a safe environment.

“I think training for the staff would help a lot,” he says. “But it’s very hard to train people when you’re short-staffed on the floors.”

The forum was organized by Republican state Sen. Roger Katz so lawmakers could get a better understanding of work conditions at Riverview. Lawmakers from both parties attended the forum.