Thursday, February 05, 2009

The curious case of the overpaid nurse

From the San Francisco Chronicle, we learn of the case of Lina Manglicmot, a nurse at the State of California's Correctional Training Facility whose base salary was $108,807 and who made $198,363 in overtime pay in 2007. I.e., she made over $300,000 in 2007. Now, where have you ever seen a nurse making $300 large for working in a training facility where she is presumably is teaching other nurses how to be nurses? Clearly this is a case of extravagant spending by the state.

Well, until you look at the actual data. The Correctional Training Facility is actually a prison located over an hour's drive from the nearest major metropolitan area, housing Level I (minimum security) through Level III (medium security) prisoners. The only "training" done there is training prisoners how to stamp license plates, pick up trash by the side of the road, and do laundry. And the Department of Corrections is under court order right now to provide a certain amount of nursing care to its prisons, and Lina Manglicmot is a named party in the lawsuit Bolling v. Curry et al. In other words, she is a nursing supervisor / registered nurse and under court order to work this many hours of overtime covering shifts where no other nurse can be found. And it's damnably hard to find nurses willing to work in a prison way out in the boondocks.

The root cause of all this is the fact that California sends so many people to prison for life for stupid reasons like stealing a candybar or a package of Hostess donuts, causing a doubling of the prison population without a doubling of the budget for prison medical care. Which wouldn't be a problem, except those pesky activist judges seem to be a bit crotchety about giving the death penalty (via denial of medical care) for stealing a candy bar. Something about the Bill of Rights, the Tenth Amendment, and how it bans "cruel and unusual punishments", which apparently they consider the death penalty for stealing a candybar to be. So this particular case is a case where the court ordered the spending, not something you can blame on the person working all that friggin' overtime (man, how does she have a *life* with all that overtime?! I bet she must be only a few years from her pension, otherwise she would have quit long before now). The curious case of the overpaid nurse turns out to have a very simple answer: The judge dunnit. So much for the "extravagant spending" canard...

-- Badtux the Nursing Penguin


  1. I got 91 big ones the last year I worked in S.F. I worked like a mad dog, literally running between rooms a lot of the time. I still thought I was overpaid, but at least I worked hard for the money. And when I worked in state prisons in Florida, the pay stank as much as the sweaty cons. I was obviously in the wrong state at the wrong time.

  2. i have a sister who is a nurse down here in southern cal at a prison.

    the state's system of prison healthcare is, and has been, in federal receivership for a long time.

    now, the governator is saying that nurses in the prisons, along with the guards, are all subject to the mandatory furloughs.

    here's how that shit will work. folks will take their furloughs, just like the state promised them they had to do. the open slots, where a ratio of guards and nurses to the number of prisoners is mandated by law.

    the empty slots will then be filled by registry nurses, or overtime staff.

    so, yes, they will get their furloughs just like they demanded.

    it will cost them nearly twice as much in overtime and registry pay to get them.

  3. While her commitment and dedication should be applauded, one has to wonder abuot the quality of care a nurse who's working double and what looks like even triple shifts is going to offer.

  4. My mother was a nurse for the State of Louisiana when there was a similar furor about overtime pay. So the dictate came down: "No overtime." Only problem is, there wasn't enough nurses to cover all shifts without paying someone overtime (you do the math, 168 hours per week is *not* evenly divisible by 40, you need at least one nurse working 8 hours overtime to make it work), so they had to hire an agency nurse at twice the price to cover the excess shift (plus cover for sick nurses and such) rather than paying time-and-a-half to staff nurses.

    So my mother simply went down to the agency and signed up. And on a day when she was not allowed to work, but she needed the money, she'd simply show up for work -- at twice her salary, as an agency nurse.

    When the politicians start doing political posturing, you almost always know it's going to turn out to cost more than the original "problem" it was intended to solve...

    - Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

  5. One other thought, based on my usual paranoia. I vaguely recall other cases, involving prison guards and police officers, where they got paid for an impossible number of hours worked. They turned out to be fraudulent billing.

    These workers, who were in supervisory positions where they could sign off for their own number of hours worked, would just chalk up incredible amounts of overtime even though they were not actually on the job then. It's made easier when, as you said, there are a mandated number of hours that must be filled because of a court order. So people can just say "Yeah, I was there. Pay me for it. Or would you rather deal with a new court case where the fines will be a lot higher than the $300K I creamed off?"

    If you see any follow-ups to this, Tux, see whether it's fraud, not an excessively diligent worker.

    As for the registry nurse thing your mom did, I'm surprised that she could pull that off. I did a lot of agency work in Florida, which is what I was doing when I pulled my shifts in the prisons. Both the agencies and the workplaces had policies that forbade nurses from working agency at places they were regularly employed, and also from jumping into regular staff slots within six months of when they had worked at a place through the agency. Prevented hospitals from stealing staff from agencies and vice versa, and also stopped workplaces for squeezing more than 40 hours work a week from their employees while avoiding overtime wages.

  6. Bukko, I think it was a wink wink nod nod between the hospital and the agency. They had to have the nurses, but were forbidden to pay overtime after all that political furor about overtime pay and how much money was going to the nurses (note -- not a whole lot, but you know how politicians are, they gotta have shit to fling or they aren't doing their job), so the hospital and agency made a gentleman's agreement of sort to make sure all shifts got covered. I remember my mother, on her days off, getting up early in case the agency called and she had to go in and work a shift for someone who was out.

    Working state is a bit different from working a private hospital, you're not going to see a lot of mobility from agency to hospital and vice-versa because the hospital nurses are there for the state pension at the end and aren't going to jump ship just because the agency offers them more money or more freedom or whatever. In any event, it was more an example of how political posturing typically ends up costing more money than the "abuses" it's supposed to resolve...

    -Badtux the Labor Penguin


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