The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 6, 2013

NORCE staffing questioned by DHS

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — For at least two days last week, a private firm hired to provide staffing at Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid sent unqualified workers to the facility, according to the state agency that oversees NORCE.

A spokesman with Department of Human Services confirmed that Sooner Medical Staffing sent 14 temporary employees to the Enid facility Oct. 29. By Oct. 31, DHS found out 13 of those workers were only certified nurse’s aides, said DHS spokesman Mark Beutler.

DHS had asked Sooner Medical for workers qualified as developmental disabilities certified assistants, or DDCA.

“That’s what our contract calls for. That’s what we specified,” Beutler said.

Mike Ragland, chief operating officer for Sooner Medical, disagrees.

“I can tell you that everyone staffing at NORCE through Sooner Medical meets the qualifications of staffing there,” he said. “Everything we’ve done has been in compliance and been validated.”

Since the company was awarded the contract to provide workers at NORCE, Ragland said Sooner Medical has had “every indication” its employees were qualified.

“To our knowledge, we’ve never supplied anyone there that did not meet the qualifications required,” Ragland said.

He directed further questions on the issue to DHS.

In response, DHS noted Sooner Medical would have known before it bid for the contract.

“The contract was sent out as an invitation to bid, so it clearly spelled out what was required when he submitted his bid,” Beutler said.

Company competition

Sooner Medical Staffing is based in Norman and provides staffing at medical facilities in the Oklahoma City-area, including Kingfisher.

It won the eight-month-long contract over Haskin Healthcare Staffing, an Enid startup.

When DHS first realized it would have to supplement its own state employees with private ones, officials asked Haskin Healthcare to step in for 90 days as an emergency provider.

After that, both Haskin Healthcare and Sooner Medical bid for the permanent job, which Sooner Medical won.

Haskin Healthcare owner Angela Haskin said she was at a disadvantage because she’d never applied for such a large state contract before.

“It wasn’t awarded because of the way I submitted the paperwork,” she said.

What’s happened since then, though, is causing her business to struggle. Because Sooner Medical holds the contract for NORCE, Haskin’s contracted workers have jumped to the company providing that work.

On Monday, Haskin said, eight of her staffers called to say they’d been recruited by Sooner Medical. By Wednesday, the firm had lost about 75 percent of its personnel.

Ragland said this week that his company has not contacted any of the former Haskin Healthcare employees, but that several did contact Sooner Medical looking for work.

Haskin Healthcare had bulked up during its emergency NORCE contract, and in some cases, the company provided training to get its employees properly certified.

Haskin Healthcare has been in business for about a year and a half, its owner said.

“We’ve just been praying a lot and we’re to the conclusion that we just have to pick ourself up, dust ourself off and go on,” said Haskin.

Sooner Medical’s contract with DHS is effective through June 30, 2014, with an option to renew for another year. NORCE is scheduled to close in August 2015.