Fired nun may be returning as Allegheny County jail nurse

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Corizon Health Inc., the firm that manages health care at the Allegheny County Jail, and the United Steelworkers, the union that represents the medical staff, are working to reinstate the registered nurse who was fired from her job in January.

"We are working together to resolve issues so she can be reinstated," said Lynette Harris, director for marketing and communications for Corizon, on Tuesday evening.

The details regarding the return to work of Sister Barbara Finch are still being worked out, said Ms. Harris and Randa Ruge, organizer for the United Steelworkers union.

Ms. Harris said Corizon and the United Steelworkers plan to put out a joint statement in the coming days regarding the agreement.

"It was a settlement which she felt comfortable with, and we are happy to get her back to work," Ms. Ruge said.

Sister Barbara, 62, who worked at the jail for five years, said Tuesday that she expected to return to work next week.

Corizon, a Tennessee-based firm that took over management of the jail's infirmary in September, has said Sister Barbara was let go Jan. 30 because her security clearances were revoked.

In a letter sent Feb. 20 from J. Scott King, chief legal officer of Corizon, to jail warden Orlando Harper, Mr. King describes a Jan. 30 meeting where Deputy Warden Monica Long said a corrections officer notified her that Sister Barbara failed to dispense diabetic medication to some inmates that day and that she was revoking Sister Barbara's security clearance for that reason.

Later that same day, a Corizon official called Sister Barbara to tell her that her employment was terminated because she no longer had clearance to access the jail.

Ms. Ruge said Sister Barbara was usually a "sick call" nurse, meaning inmates came to see her at the infirmary, and that Jan. 30 was her first day performing "medication passes" in the pods within the jail.

Since parts of the jail were on lockdown that day, Sister Barbara was unable to dispense insulin to some inmates at the correct time, Ms. Ruge said. By the time the lockdown was lifted, Sister Barbara decided the remaining inmates could have an "adverse" reaction if given insulin close to the time their next dosage was scheduled, Ms. Ruge said.

Following Sister Barbara's termination, the United Steelworkers filed an unfair labor practice charge against Corizon, but that is being withdrawn, Ms. Ruge said.

As part of the agreement, Ms. Ruge said Sister Barbara's security clearance to work at the jail has been reinstated, which Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs confirmed.

Although she would not discuss what the terms of the settlement will be, Ms. Ruge said "this is one of the reasons they organized, for job protection."

Ms. Ruge said Sister Barbara plans to be involved in contract negotiations between Corizon and the newly unionized infirmary employees.

It was just over two weeks ago that members of the jail medical staff voted to unionize under the United Steelworkers. In early February, before the unionization vote, United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard called the firing of Sister Barbara, who had been involved in unionization efforts, a "clear case of intimidation."

Corizon says it supports the rights of its workers to unionize.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published March 4, 2014 3:20 PM

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