BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- Pender County Health Department employees asked that we hide their identity because they fear for their jobs. But after commissioners decided to investigate the department, they feel their calls for help are finally being answered.
"Our health director called each of us into his office and told us that someone had been talking to a county politician, and that if it stopped now he would let it go. If not that he would find out who it is, and they would be fired," said one employee.
Another agreed saying, "(Health director Dr. Jack Griffith) said what happens in the health department stays in the health department."
Complaints like this led the Pender County Commission to call for an independent review of the health department. Commissioner Norwood Blanchard led the motion, and George Brown seconded.
"Any time someone says something to me of that nature, it sends up a red flag," Brown said. "Why would you be concerned about your job for talking to a commissioner?"
Health department employees say threats of losing their jobs were only the tip of the iceberg for what they called "poor administration."
"It had gotten to the point that the health director would not listen to anything," one employee said, "and we were concerned about losing staff members and the safety of our patients."
"Because you feel that you don't have anywhere to go. You can't go to anyone to talk to," agreed another employee.
Employees say health department administration ignored notices that certain employees were using drugs while on the job and even violating confidentiality practices. They say some employees did not receive proper training, and as a result endangered the lives of some of the patients.
"One nurse who was drawing up vaccines to give to a child, not capping the needle and sticking it into a dirty tray to carry it into a room to give to a child," rembers one employee.
Another employee added, "They didn't even know where these injections needed to go: into the arms, into the legs, what part of the body."
Employees say these problems have existed for years, and they've finally decided to come forward because it's caught the attention of the commissioners.
One employee summed it up: "I know the health department would be better off without the administration: Dr. Griffith and Gwen Smith."
We could not reach Griffith Monday night for comment.
County Manager Rick Benton says he is working as quickly as he can to provide commissioners with a list of independent and state agencies that can conduct the investigation. Commissioners say they had hoped the administration would deal with the issues before they had to get involved, but more complaints of greater magnitude have continued to come to their attention.