On January 23, two Cook County Emergency Response Technicians (ERTs) testified about the urgent need to address staffing issues at a Cook County Committee on Health and Hospitals Committee Meeting. During the public comments portion of the meeting, Lena Colon and Raven Reynolds shared their experiences working with extreme understaffing at the Cook County Jail.
“I work in the Intake Department, where we see short staffing on a daily basis. When my department has enough workers, staff are pulled and sent to other areas, leaving us short staffed once again. ERTs are professionals who are well-versed in the type of emergency aid needed in correctional settings. Fewer ERTs means fewer staff available to save the lives of inmates and others in need,” said Colon.
“Short staffing is the result of losing Correctional Medical Technicians (CMTs) and ERTs to retirement or another County institution, such as Stroger Hospital. At one point, we had nearly 20 CMTs and 20 ERTs on staff; today, that number has dwindled to the point that we struggle with our response times and providing health care to struggling inmates. The County isn’t urgently hiring more CMTs or ERTs; instead, they would rather bring in agency staff or another worker to fill a CMT or ERT slot,” said Reynolds, who also serves as a Local 73 union steward.
Commissioners thanked members for bringing the issue to their attention and asked follow up questions to understand the full scope of the short staffing problem. Cook County members know that the fight is not over. They will continue fighting for appropriate staffing levels and the respect they deserve until they’re victorious.
Watch Colon and Reynold’s testimony below.