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September 18, 2007

DiNapoli: Rule Changes Could Help Helen Hayes Hospital

Report Reveals Conflict Between Work Rules, Staffing Practices

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today that Helen Hayes Hospital in Rockland County should press for rule changes that would improve cost effectiveness and ensure compliance with civil service rules while allowing the hospital to continue to provide rehabilitative patient care that is among the finest in the nation.

“For more than 100 years, Helen Hayes Hospital has been a leader in rehabilitation medicine,” DiNapoli said. “In July, the hospital was approved to provide an even more vital service: the care of military personnel wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Helen Hayes does a great job helping patients recover and rehabilitate. That mission must continue. But state staffing regulations may be outdated, and they may be getting in the way of continued excellent care for Helen Hayes’ patients. Hospital officials should seek the staffing flexibility they need to continue the remarkable care the hospital provides. The hospital needs clear authorization from the state Civil Service Department and the Division of Budget on how it uses per diem employees.”

According to a DiNapoli audit released today, Helen Hayes Hospital used per diem employment in a manner that did not comply with State Civil Service Law or its affiliation agreement with New York Presbyterian Hospital. The audit found that Helen Hayes Hospital was inappropriately meeting its demand for services by paying salaried, on-staff therapists on a per diem basis instead of paying a lower overtime rate. The costs of this practice, however, were determined to be relatively small.

The hospital, which says it is now complying with the work rules and affiliation agreement, cited its proximity to New York City — which drives up the competition for filling therapist slots on weekends — and its commitment to patient care as reasons behind the per diem staffing practice. Helen Hayes officials reasoned that if it needed to pay a per diem rate to meet its needs, it was better to pay professionals who have existing relationships with their patients and the hospital.

The audit additionally found that Helen Hayes Hospital employs internal controls that provide reasonable assurance that employees are paid only for hours actually worked, and that non-personal service payments for goods and services were appropriate and properly accounted for.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

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