TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas psychiatric hospital that’s had a dramatic staff shortage in recent years spent more on overtime pay last year than any other state agency or facility.

Larned State Hospital paid its roughly 600 employees $3.8 million in overtime during the 2016 fiscal year that ended in June, accounting for nearly a quarter of the state’s total overtime costs for the year. The Kansas Department of Transportation, with a staff three times larger than Larned, was the 2nd highest with $2.1 million in overtime costs.

Overall, the state spent more than $16.3 million in overtime during the fiscal year, a figure that doesn’t include the state’s universities, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2c8sQL4 ) reported.

The state’s other psychiatric hospital in Osawatomie, with about 300 staff members, spent about $775,000 in overtime pay.

Both hospitals have struggled to fill vacancies, which forces staff members to work long hours to fill the gaps. Staffing concerns at Osawatomie contributed to that hospital’s loss of Medicare certification in November, which has cost the state about $1 million a month.

State officials are trying to make sure Larned, which had 314 vacant positions at the end of June, doesn’t follow suit.

Larned employees logged nearly 180,000 hours in overtime between July 2015 and June 30, according to records provided by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Employees testified at a legislative hearing in April that it was not uncommon to repeatedly work shifts of 12 or 16 hours, which they said affected both the quality of work and the workplace atmosphere.

The Larned hospital is recruiting employees from the adjacent juvenile correctional facility, which the state plans to close within a year, acting KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said. The hospital also has reduced its patient population from 540 at the start of the calendar year to 470 in August.

Keck, who has been the interim leader since January, said the hours of overtime worked each month have been declining since he arrived. He added that the hospital has had employees complain that they’re receiving less overtime pay than before.

Rebecca Proctor, executive director for the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said workers tell her they aren’t seeing much of a difference in the number of days they’re being kept late.

“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.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com