Politics & Government

Larned hospital accounts for nearly quarter of state’s overtime

Larned State Hospital.
Larned State Hospital. (File photo)

Larned State Hospital spent more on overtime pay last fiscal year than any other state agency or facility.

The psychiatric hospital, which has grappled with understaffing, paid its roughly 600 employees $3.8 million in overtime during the 2016 fiscal year that ended in June. The amount accounted for nearly a quarter of the state’s total overtime costs for the year.

$16.3 million State overtime in fiscal 2016

$3.8 millionOvertime at Larned State Hospital

$2.1 millionOvertime at Kansas Department of Transportation

The next closest agency – the Kansas Department of Transportation – spent about $2.1 million and has a staff more than triple the size of Larned. Across all agencies, the state spent more than $16.3 million on overtime in the last fiscal year, according to data provided by the Kansas Department of Administration. The data does not include the state’s universities.

The state’s other psychiatric hospital in Osawatomie, which has about 300 staff members, accounted for $774,830 in overtime pay.

Both hospitals have struggled to fill vacancies in recent years, requiring staff members to work long hours to cover the gaps. That has led to safety concerns.

Staffing concerns at Osawatomie contributed to that hospital’s loss of Medicare certification in November, costing the state about $1 million a month.

State officials are trying to ensure that Larned doesn’t follow suit.

‘Extraordinary hours’

Between July 2015 and July 2016, Larned employees worked nearly 180,000 hours in overtime, according to records provided by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which oversees both hospitals.

At a legislative hearing in April, employees said it was not uncommon to repeatedly work shifts of 12 or 16 hours; they contended the quality of work and the workplace atmosphere suffered.

Larned had 313 vacant positions at the end of June, an overall vacancy rate of 34 percent.

“There’s no doubt that the extraordinary hours that staff are putting in is not only dangerous to them, but it’s dangerous to the patients,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

There’s no doubt that the extraordinary hours that staff are putting in is not only dangerous to them, but it’s dangerous to the patients.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka

“It’s hard to stay on your toes for 12 hours a day six days a week. Things can get by you,” she said. “…I think the other reality is that when you’re that tight on staff, and having people work those kinds of hours, you’re also not providing the active treatment that you need because just nobody can function.”

The hospital is aggressively recruiting employees from the adjacent juvenile correctional facility, which the state plans to close within a year, to increase staff in the long term, said acting KDADS Secretary Tim Keck.

It also has closed units to lighten the workload for current staff, reducing the hospital’s patient population from 540 at the start of the calendar year to 470 in August.

Conflicting stories

Keck, who has been the agency’s interim director since January, said staff conditions are improving based on anecdotal evidence.

“The first day I went out to Larned I gave everyone my e-mail address and phone number to call me. … I immediately over the next couple of weeks got probably 100 e-mails from people,” said Keck, explaining that employees flooded his inbox with complaints about the long hours.

“I don’t get those e-mails anymore,” he said.

I don’t get those e-mails anymore.

Acting KDADS secretary Tim Keck, who says staffing conditions at Larned have improved

He said the hours of overtime worked each month – while still too high – have been declining since January. The hospital has actually had employees complain that they’re receiving less overtime pay than before, he added.

Rebecca Proctor, executive director for the Kansas Organization of State Employees, the union that represents state workers, said she meets monthly with Keck to discuss staffing levels and has heard his comment about employees complaining about less overtime pay.

But, she said, when she goes “to the state hospitals and I talk directly with the employees, it doesn’t seem like their amounts of mandatory overtime or the number of days per week that they are being held over is actually improving.”

“There seems to be a disconnect between what we’re hearing from the people at the top and the actual experience of the people doing the jobs,” she said.

‘Getting creative’

Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, said Larned’s isolation makes it difficult to recruit staff for the hospital. The town is 120 miles northwest of Wichita in Pawnee County.

“They have to really work to get people to come out there,” he said.

Hawkins said he was hopeful that a burgeoning partnership with Fort Hays State University’s nursing program would help the hospital increase staffing in the long term.

“They’re getting creative and I think that over time that’s going to work,” Hawkins said. “That one’s not a quick fix out there.”

They’re getting creative and I think that over time that’s going to work. That one’s not a quick fix out there.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

Overtime at state agencies

For fiscal 2016

Annual salary

Gross wages*

Overtime

All agencies

$ 874,989,960

$ 838,617,742

$ 16,314,890

Larned State Hospital

$ 25,264,569

$ 26,938,952

$ 3,831,406

Department of Transportation

$ 93,492,876

$ 93,856,217

$ 2,098,947

Highway Patrol

$ 39,948,498

$ 41,532,317

$ 1,998,198

Hutchinson Correctional Fclty

$ 15,822,018

$ 16,356,406

$ 1,169,158

Dept for Children and Families

$ 85,627,028

$ 84,971,654

$ 1,084,545

Lansing Correctional Facility

$ 22,020,318

$ 22,010,699

$ 936,851

Osawatomie State Hospital

$ 15,699,423

$ 14,181,018

$ 774,830

Kansas Bureau of Investigation

$ 14,833,735

$ 14,490,909

$ 579,623

Veterans Commission

$ 10,370,985

$ 10,179,320

$ 509,449

Topeka Correctional Facility

$ 8,309,963

$ 8,403,996

$ 406,131

*Gross wages include employee annual salaries and overtime. Gross wages may be less than annual salaries when employees do not complete a full year of work.

Data: Kansas Department of Administration

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