Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's not about the nurse...

Nurse makes $250K

It's about the system that allows this.

Seriously, and there is no one person who is completely at fault in a situation such as this...

"I'm working a ridiculous amount of hours because the system is affording me those hours," said Kurt Trapler, one of the top 15 wage earners in the health region in 2009-10.

Mr. Trapler is exactly right - the system is allowing him to work all of those hours and he isn't saying no. Why? Well, would you say "no" to $90/hr?

Many people smarter than I am have been saying that the current state of health care bargaining and health care provision in general is absolutely absurd. Between the different types of shifts allowed, the different requirements of the health district in offering vacated shifts according to the union contract, and the prevalence of usage of sick time and "family days" on short notice, it would be tough to get anyone to fill in a shift without incurring overtime.

Just for fun though, here are a few humble suggestions that health districts could pursue to help them save money in wages and administrative costs:

1) Identify units and/or shifts where abnormal overtime is being incurred.
2) Schedule additional staff to those units and shifts which have been identified.
3) Make sure that those additional staff are scheduled either from casual, part time or new full-time positions. Disqualify any current full time staff from being called in to work overtime.
4) A unit shift would have to be overstaffed more than 100% of the time in order to make this proposal unfeasible in which case return to Step 1 again.

Simple, effective. What it comes down to is that there may be particular patterns which can be identified in order to ensure that the proper number of scheduled people are working a shift. By doing these steps, while you are acknowledging a certain amount overspending, you are also ensuring that overtime rates are minimized, resulting in an overall decrease in salaries and wages being paid. By doing this, you are also removing any incentive inherent in taking family days on short notice due to the availability of additional staff at regular time.

The alternative might be viewed to be more heavy handed - no paid family days without sufficient notice, blackouts on sick days revolving around high absenteeism days without a doctors note. Blackouts on using existing full time staff to staff additional shifts regardless of seniority.

Again, it isn't about a nurse or two earning 2 or 3 times their normal annual salary because of overtime, it's about past concessions from contracts coming back to haunt the health care system. The union and health district both talk a good game - employee's health and family life being the most important things, but in the end, the union makes no concessions to allow for the problem to be fixed, and the health district has no room to correct the problems. I wonder which side will give first.

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