Overtime means large bucks, headaches for state workers

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 6:12 PM

A patient punched you. Others were so feeble that you lifted them from beds or wheelchairs and then cleaned them after they went to the bathroom.

Overtime means large bucks, headaches for state workers

You’ve looked forward to the finish of the day. A patient punched you. Others were so feeble that you lifted them from beds or wheelchairs and then cleaned them after they went to the bathroom. If they made it there.

You wish to go home. Barbecue. The kids. A Netflix binge.

Then your supervisor drops the news: You’re staying for another 8-hour shift. Again.

It happens all the time every year to nurses and psychiatric technicians who work in state hospitals, veterans homes and prison medical facilities. Those jobs logged 3.75 million overtime hours in monetary 2014-15, according to by a bipartisan state commission, and taxpayers spent $179 million to cover it.

The Small Hoover Commission found that the state’s mental and health care services rely “so heavily on overtime as a staffing tool, that at times there aren't sufficient volunteers to staff every shift.” So employees were ordered to work more than 417.000 overtime hours latest year. One TN health administrator told the commission that forced overtime amounts to “indentured servitude.”

Sylvia Hernandez, a psychiatric technician at San Bernardino’s Patton State Hospital, said, “It gets tough to stay focused on that second shift. That puts us, our peers and our patients at risk.”

Her union, the CA Organization of Psychiatric Technicians, figures its 3.500 members in state medical facilities worked 1.2 million hours of overtime latest year at a cost of $54 million. That’s sufficient money to hire another six hundred psych techs. So why not?

State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montaño said in a email that, “While hiring more staff may sound love a ordinary solution,” some facilities struggle to recruit and maintain staff and there is stiff contest for health workers.

The state enters the chase with a limp. Midrange pay for a state hospital registered nurse is $96.000 per year. Kaiser and the UC Medical System pay from $17.000 to $30.000 more. It takes just a few weeks to obtain a private-sector hospital job, but months to navigate the state’s hiring maze.

State facilities house violent offenders incompetent to stand trial or inmates not mentally fit to be set free. After CA shifted low-level convicts (who tend to be younger) from state prison to local jails, the state was left with caring for older and less healthy inmates who necessity more individual attention. Private-sector patients are less threatening and frequently are less acute.

And state law restricts overtime in California’s private-sector hospitals, but not for state facilities. Gov. Jerry Brown latest year vetoed a bill that'd have changed that because, he said, the matter should be collectively bargained. Brown and the union are bargaining a new contract now.

Despite those hurdles, the Tiny Hoover report encourages lawmakers to require facilities to slice overtime by fifty % within two years, get rid of mandatory overtime with few exceptions, streamline hiring and set up “on call” staffing.

After all, if state patient care is necessary sufficient to force employees to work against their will, doesn’t it deserve better planning so they don’t have to?

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