Health, Mental Health Service Workers Contribute to Increased Overtime Staff Costs in Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County in 2004 paid more than $24.3 million in overtime, with most overtime shifts going to health, mental health, public safety and social service workers, the Contra Costa Times reports. Overtime payments increased by about $1 million from 2003.
According to one expert, the county, which operates a hospital and fire department, can expect higher overtime payments in the future in part because of rules that mandate a specific number of workers to cover shifts, including nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.
Some union officials say counties would rather pay overtime than hire new employees to avoid the added costs of providing health care and other benefits.
According to Liz Jacobs, a spokesperson for the California Nurses Association, such practices could contribute to a future nursing shortage in the state.
Steve Kiley, legislative coordinator for the California State Association of Counties, said public agencies have to assign overtime because they cannot find enough qualified candidates to hire, adding that there is a "huge shortage of (people to fill) medical positions."
Jacobs said the state expects 35% of nurses to retire over the next three years, and she added that counties' avoiding benefit costs by assigning overtime gives nurses "no incentive ... to keep working" (Rosen Lum, Contra Costa Times, 11/11).