As long-term staffing shortages continue at Torrance State Hospital, its workers are costing the state millions in overtime pay.
Eugene DePasquale, the state's auditor general, said in a release today that a recent audit of the Westmoreland County hospital revealed that workers have totaled 483,980 hours in overtime in a three-year span, costing more than $14 million.
Mr. DePasquale said the audit covered from July 2011 to June 2014 with updates through this past November.
According to the audit, 7 percent of Torrance’s positions were unfilled at any given time, and more than 50 percent of those were direct patient-care positions. In 2011, there were as many as 75 unfilled positions.
As for overtime, the report says the hospital averaged 32 employees per year who worked in excess of 800 extra hours.
The report added that in the fiscal year 2014, 10 employees earned more than their base salaries in overtime. In the most glaring case, one employee with a base salary of $42,640 earned $72,830 in overtime in 2014, for a total annual payout of $115,470.
“Employees told our auditors that they are afraid to go to work because they are not sure when they will get back home if they are mandated to work overtime,” Mr. DePasquale said in the statement. “Under the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Healthcare act, Torrance is not allowed to require an employee to work in excess of an agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled work day shift.
“Clearly, having current employees work excessive amounts of overtime rather than hiring enough staff is not a viable, cost-effective long-term solution.”
Officials from the Department of Human Services (DHS), which oversees the six state-owned psychiatric hospitals, said overtime has been the result of a number of factors, the staffing shortage being just one of them. The others include higher-than-average use of leave and unexpected call-offs, a recent increase in required one-to-one patient observations, and the time it takes to recruit and hire employees following state civil service procedures.
According to DePasquale's statement, the DHS responded to the audit by adding 33 employees, a 4.8 percent staffing increase, at Torrance.