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June 26, 2007

Audit Finds Extensive Overtime at
Hudson River Psychiatric Center

New Procedures Set to Ensure Patient and Staff Safety

Officials at the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Hudson River Psychiatric Center (HRPC) in Poughkeepsie are putting new procedures in place to ensure that staff are fit for duty and not working too many overtime shifts after a state audit found that some employees were working 38 or more hours of overtime each week, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today.

The audit, released today, found that 13 HRPC employees worked 1,000 or more overtime hours in 2005, an average of 19 hours each week. Three of these employees worked 2,000 overtime hours or more, an average of 38 hours each week. These employees worked many weeks in the year without any days off, and sometimes worked three shifts in a row.

“When staff work too much overtime, it can negatively impact the quality of care provided to patients,” DiNapoli said. “Hudson River Psychiatric Center has implemented our recommendations for new procedures that will help ensure the safety and well-being of both patients and staff.”

HRPC includes a residential center for about 130 patients, where much of the direct care services are provided by mental health therapy aides, secure care treatment aides and licensed practical nurses. Because patients require 24-hour care, direct care shifts must always be staffed. Patients with acute conditions may require one-on-one supervision, further increasing the need for direct care staff. Auditors found that about half of all overtime was based on the need to provide one-on-one direct care.

HRPC officials followed their own procedures and union contract rules when awarding overtime hours to staff. While no contract provisions or labor laws were violated by having employees work extensive overtime, auditors noted that excessive overtime has been linked to higher rates of accidents, absenteeism, and job turnover. Extensive overtime hours can also result in “presenteeism,” when workers are on site but too exhausted to be fully focused on the job.

Auditors found:

  • 13 workers at HRPC in 2005 typically worked more than 14 hours a day.
  • Four workers accounted for 15 percent of all overtime worked at the facility.
  • One worker worked 14 hours or more on a total of 215 days, and worked a total of 26 weeks without a single day off.

Auditors noted that HRPC did not have a process in place to proactively review the number of overtime hours worked by employees, and recommended that such a process be established, which HRPC officials agreed to do. Auditors also determined that HRPC had limited procedures in place to determine if extensive overtime work was affecting employees’ ability to do their jobs effectively. Auditors recommended that HRPC establish a documented process to assess potential overtime workers to ensure that they are fit to continue working, and HRPC officials said they would do so.

Overall, HRPC agreed with the audit’s findings and has already taken action to begin to implement the recommendations. A response from HRPC is included in the audit.

HRPC serves seriously mentally ill adults in Dutchess, Ulster and Putnam Counties at its inpatient facility in Poughkeepsie. It also operates ten other facilities including community residences, a transitional residence, clinics and a day training program. HRPC employees worked a total of 58,000 overtime hours in 2005, valued at $1.7 million.

Click here for a copy of the audit.



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