County legislature considers extending nurses’ incentive program

By Debra J. Groom

Oswego County is moving ahead with continuing a program to retain and recruit registered and licensed practical nurses.

Legislator John Proud, R-Mexico, chair of the County Legislature’s health committee, said the committee this week approved a measure to add about $39,000 for the retention and recruitment program.

He said the program began about five years ago to help the county keep its nurses, who work in various programs through the county health department.

“We were losing nurses to places that offer higher salaries,” Proud said. “We had to look for ways to keep these nurses.”

He said one nurse who was ready to be promoted in her Oswego County job left for a hospital job where she was going to be paid $10,000 more than she was making in her county job.

“You can’t hate them for that,” Proud said.

The money is used to provide incentives to nurses already working for the county at the beginning of each year. The money also is paid to new nurses coming onboard with the county once they finish their probationary period.

Only full-time nurses are eligible for the incentives, said Carol Alnutt of the county Personnel Office.

Proud said there is only one nursing position open and officials have been working to fill the position for a few weeks.

There are 20 full-time nurses and five part-time with the health department and three full-time at the sheriff’s department.

They work in areas such as skilled nursing and home health work and provide “with skilled care and supportive health services in a safe, secure home-based environment. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” according to the county nursing website.

Proud said the program seems to be working well as “we have a stable, permanent staff right now.” When the program was started, though, the county was going through a bad patch in which “we had lost staff and we were stretched very thin,” he said.

But the county doesn’t want to just assume the program is working well.

Proud said the personnel department will be doing a five-year history review of staffing for nurses and the incentives program “to see whether it has worked.”

He said this report will come to his health committee toward the end of February.

The measure to continue the incentive program for this year passed the health committee this week and will be taken up by the finance committee next week and then the full legislature will vote on it Feb. 13.

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