The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

July 26, 2013

DHS issues response on NORCE

ENID, Okla. — NORCE has downsized its operations in Enid and hired privately employed nurses to fill any gaps in staffing, Department of Human Services said in a statement Friday.

DHS Communications Director Sheree Powell said the department is “taking every step necessary” to safeguard the residents of Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid.

“Although the facility has downsized due to residents moving into community settings, we believe we have consistently maintained required staffing ratio,” Powell said. “However, in an effort to exceed minimum staffing standards, we are contracting with an outside entity to employ LPNs and other direct care staff to ensure quality care.”

The statement is in response to concerns the facility is understaffed, a claim made by the father of a NORCE client who died last month of a septic infection.

Bob Williams said his daughter Lynette was in excellent care at NORCE, but when it was announced the state-run facility would close in 2015, some health care workers there apparently began looking for another place to work.

“She had excellent care there at the facility, but when they started closing it, there was no way they could take care of all the people they had and give them the proper care that they needed,” Williams told the Enid News & Eagle.

Williams said he has raised the same concerns to DHS, which is conducting an internal review of Lynette Williams’ death. Any outcomes of that inquiry are not considered public information by DHS.

Another state agency, the Department of Health, is conducting its own investigation.

The Enid News & Eagle filed an Open Records Act request on June 24, asking for data on staffing levels at NORCE, along with several other topics. The request has not yet been filled.

Focus on the institution has sharpened in the past year as the state prepares to cease operations, forcing the residents into a community style setting. The other state facility for the developmentally disabled, Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley, is expected to close in 2014. A legislative hearing this fall will examine issues related to the facilities’ closure.

In her response to Williams’ statement, Powell said serving the medically fragile presents challenges — even with the best care.

“In addition to increasing staff, we are arranging for outside physicians to conduct a medical peer review process, conducting re-assessments of all medically fragile individuals, and performing pharmacy reviews of all resident medications,” Powell said, adding that DHS administrators have been sent to NORCE on a rotating basis to observe and review procedures. “We are putting into place every conceivable measure to ensure that the care for the individuals living at NORCE and SORC is of the highest quality without question.”

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