Ban on mandatory OT for PA nurses

    Pennsylvania made an exception to the state hiring freeze to prepare for a new law that bans mandatory overtime for health care workers.

    Pennsylvania made an exception to the state hiring freeze to prepare for a new law that bans mandatory overtime for health care workers.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090701teovertime.mp3]

    Mandatory overtime is allowed in community-wide emergencies, but the law protects nurses and others from discipline if they refuse to work regular overtime shifts.

    Nurses unions pushed for the change because they say over-tired workers are vulnerable to more mistakes.

    Aidan Altenor directs operations for the state hospital system, which includes several psychiatric facilities. He stepped up recruiting efforts and hired new nurses in recent months. Altenor doesn’t expect any problems complying with the new law.

    Altenor: The majority of the overtime hours that are performed in the entire state hospital system are performed by staff on a voluntary basis and I don’t expect that to change.

    Altenor says in the last fiscal year, just over five-percent of all overtime hours were mandatory.

    The Service Employees International Union says excessive overtime puts patients at risk.

    The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania says most acute and speciality care hospitals do not use mandatory overtime on a regular basis. Paula Bussard leads the association’s regulatory division

    Bussard: The data that the Department of Health has collected over the years has actually shown that the use of excessive overtime, or also known as mandatory overtime, that the use is more frequent in nursing homes and the state-owned psychiatric hospitals.

    Care providers at Graterford Prison and Norristown State Hospital report that they’ve been forced to work overtime shifts in recent weeks.

    Suzanne Dougherty is a nurse at Norristown State Hospital.

    Dougherty: It seemed like whenever they were short on a shift, you know, they didn’t have enough workers to begin with and then they would call people to stay for another shift, and that happen pretty regularly until the mandatory bill was brought to light, and then they hired a lot of new nurses.

    Dougherty says Norristown nurses work less overtime now, but she says until recently psychiatric aides were often forced to take overtime shifts.

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