Today I was terminated from my role of Emergency Department Tech II at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. Not due to excessive absence, lack of punctuality, or poor job performance. What I lacked was seniority, regardless of being told by numerous employees (including management) that I am an exceptional employee. In short, I was terminated as a solution to your corporation’s budget cuts.

Every day the hospital staff runs on a near skeleton crew as a direct result of your establishment’s goal to fiscally save. It was made clear that employee and patient safety were no longer priorities when several months ago the decision was made to place the hospital on a hiring freeze.

We recently lost three ED Techs due to medical leave, one left to become a nurse practitioner, and another became a nurse on PCU. Once the hiring freeze was enacted, nursing and tech positions were not filled. Leaving the entire Emergency Department (and hospital) without adequate staff. Direct effects of this included the inability to stay on task, medication errors, mislabeled laboratory specimens, increased wait times, slow admission process, severe impaction of the department, and overall lack of quality care. With a rough average of 100 patients being registered daily through the Emergency Department, I can only see these problems exacerbating as flu season rapidly approaches.

I’m sure you also are aware that medical staff are the most likely to experience violence in the workplace. We handle many patients with behavioral issues that are typically either the result of mental illness or illicit drug/alcohol abuse. Since the beginning of the hiring freeze, we saw an increase in violence against caregivers. We are trained that strength lies in numbers when patients become agitated and violent. I could provide many examples of our daily unsafe work environment.

This morning I awoke at 0430 to prepare for my work day. I was exhausted after battling insomnia all night- the result of a particularly complicated patient case the afternoon prior. I perpetually woke after every dream recreating that event. I was left wondering “How could we have handled this situation better? What could we have done differently to provide this patient with a higher quality of care?.” I tried to shrug the feeling of guilt and continue with my day.

I arrived at work, ready to conquer my shift. I began my normal duties- cleaning rooms, stocking supply carts, performing EKG’s, drawing blood, etc. Then, four hours after my shift began, I was asked by my manager to follow her into a meeting. Confused, I quietly followed her footsteps into the very same office where I had been interviewed to become an ED Tech.

I walked into the room, where a blonde woman I didn’t recognize was sitting. A paper folder laid on the table in front of her. She was introduced as an HR representative. Instantly my heart dropped into my stomach. I tried to fight back the lump in my throat as I turned to my manager and asked, “Am I being fired?” Her eyes began to swell with tears and she nodded “yes.” She hugged me as I sobbed hysterically.

I felt more vulnerable, hurt, and betrayed than ever in my entire life before. The company that I literally gave my sweat, blood, and tears to had chosen to relieve me of my duties without any sort of warning or notice. When I received an email stating that they would be making cut-backs, I never imagined that my critical role in the Emergency Department would be one of them.

As a single mother of two, this was a particularly devastating blow. I was left scrambling to figure out how I’m going to feed my children, make my car payment, pay for gas to get them to the next town where they attend school. All with a complete and sudden loss of income.

Moderately well-paying jobs are difficult to find in this already economically torn area, and now 35 families across Humboldt County will be fighting for the limited number of occupations left for those of us in the supposedly untouchable medical field. Thirty-five families will struggle to feed themselves, pay their bills, and purchase new clothing and shoes as their children continue to grow. Not to mention how these families will be affected once their health insurance privileges are revoked.

My own daughter is experiencing a new urological disorder diagnosis. She is only 7 years old and will have to be referred to an out of area hospital for further evaluation. After my insurance runs out, she will be without coverage, and I will be in massive amounts of debt.

The actions of St. Joseph Hospital have provided an abundance of evidence displaying their complete lack of compassion for not only the community, but their own St. Joseph family.

I am devastated. Not solely for the loss of my job, but because I have been forced away from a position that I was truly passionate about. A position where I could exercise my medical skills and care for the fellow members of my small community. It has been made clear by your corporation that saving pennies is more important than saving lives.

St. Joseph Hospital, you should be ashamed of this travesty you have bestowed upon Humboldt County.

Jessica N. Corral, ED Tech II, CPT I