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Cuyahoga County Jails Short On Nurses

Cuyahoga County offices [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

The Bedford Heights Jail reopened last month, now under the management of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff. But County Council heard today that the jail’s medical operation is critically understaffed. 

The Public Safety and Justice Affairs Committee heard that the county is not paying enough to convince nurses to work at the jail and they want to know why. 

MetroHealth provides medical services at the jails. Its chief of staff, Jane Platten, said the sheriff approved a budget for nurses but the hiring was blocked by jails director Ken Mills.

“There are paper trails of conversations about hiring nurses that we were told –in writing- by director Mills that the county would not be hiring nurses that we recommended that we needed,” said Platten. 

Mills denied it, saying budget items go over his head to the sheriff.

“They don’t come to me,” Mills told council. “That is absolutely not true.”

Councilman Dan Brady questioned Mills’ motives, saying that last year the director wanted to privatize the medical operations. 

“It’s not a line item somewhere,” said Brady.  “It is really a life and death situation that if not handled properly could lead to very big trouble.” 

Committee chair Michael Gallagher said the sheriff’s chain of command is broken, at a time when the county is offering to manage municipal jails.

“We need to clean this up,” Gallagher said. “And if we need to pay nurses more or doctors more or pharmacists more maybe we need to look at what we’re charging to take other folks’ prisoners.”  

MetroHealth officials say the main jail is short six nurses and Bedford Heights and Euclid jails have none. An emergency funding plan is in effect to hire more nurses but the positions have yet to be filled.