BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — The Pender County Health Department and Board of Health are in the midst of turbulent times. They can’t find a permanent health director. Many of the board members have resigned in protest over personality conflicts. And now we’re finding out just how dysfunctional the department has been the last 18 months.
We obtained the personnel file of Shirley Steele. She was the Nursing Supervisor there last year, until she was reassigned to Bioterrorism and Natural Disasters while being written up and suspended.
Last July, a dental student accidentally stuck herself with a needle while providing care to a patient. According to the student, and Doctor Michelle Holmes who was the Health Department Dentist, Nursing Supervisor Shirley Steele didn’t try to find out anything about the student and suggested the student go to the emergency room for a Rapid HIV Test.
Holmes says Steele acted as if, “she did not want to be bothered” and “had no interest in helping in any fashion.”
Holmes says the ER told her to draw the blood at the health department but then claims Steele wouldn’t let the lab tech carry out the order.
Holmes then states that she had to ask three people what the protocol was for what they call a sharps incident. Finally the lab tech located it and discovered going to the ER was not part of the protocol.
Jack Griffith was the Health Director at the time. He suspended Steele for five days without pay after what he called her “troublesome” actions. On the same day, Griffith informed Steele she would be reassigned from Nursing Supervisor to Bioterrorism and Natural Disasters. Griffith told her the move was lateral and “based solely on the specific needs within the health department.”
Steele appealed the suspension, claiming she did follow protocol, but Griffith denied her appeal and stated that she, “showed no ability or desire to lead or in fact even help.”
After her suspension, Steele filed a petition with the state against Griffith, stating, “I am a whistle blower. The Health Director gave me a five day suspension without pay for an incident in which I followed policy.”
Before the sharps incident, Steele claimed there was drug abuse inside the department, but an investigation proved there was no evidence of any abuse.
Last November, the North Carolina Board of Nursing also sent Steele a letter of concern because she failed to adequately supervise one of her staff. The board did not formally discipline her because they did not catch her mistake until later. Steele took this as a “favorable outcome,” but then Interim Director Wayne Raynor wrote back, saying Steele “failed to grasp the gravity of the board’s concerns.”
We tried contacting Steele, the Pender County Health Department Interim Director and members of the Board of Health, but they either didn’t return the call or didn’t want to discuss personnel matters.
Paperwork in Steele’s file also recommends she stay employed until a new permanent health director is hired. That position is still open.