LANSING – Nurses at at least one of Michigan’s state-run psychiatric hospitals are working too much overtime, auditors warned in a report Tuesday.

Dozens of nurses at the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime between October 2014 and September 2016, auditors said, including one employee who worked an average of more than 45 hours of overtime per week. Auditors found 164 nurses who worked a total of 1,709 double shifts between Sept. 25, 2016 and Dec. 3, 2016.

The problem is not limited to the Walter P. Reuther hospital. Nurses across Michigan’s five state-run hospitals say they work too much overtime, risking fatigue that can put patients or themselves at risk, according to a 2015 State Journal investigation. The same is true in many private hospitals and lawmakers have repeatedly introduced legislation to regulate overtime, but the bills have repeatedly stalled.

Michigan Department of Health & Human Services officials told the State Journal in 2015 and told auditors for their Tuesday report that shifts are mandated only when necessary. They said they struggle to recruit and retain nurses, which can lead to staff shortages that make overtime necessary.  

The Michigan Civil Service Commission in December approved a recruitment and retention program for some nurses. 

According to the auditors’ report, DHHS agreed with the findings and said the hospital leadership “closely monitors all staff working overtime to assess worker fatigue as one of the means to mitigate any potential patient care issues. If employees are observed to be fatigued, they are relieved of duty or offered additional breaks as needed. In addition, nursing supervisors monitor all nursing employees on duty and address all safety concerns of the patient, staff, and the environment.”

DHHS also told auditors their hands are tied, when it comes to mandating overtime, by the terms of a union contract. As part of sweeping reforms approved earlier this year by the Civil Service Commission, state employee unions will no longer be able to negotiate overtime provisions in their contracts.

Contact Justin A. Hinkley at (517) 377-1195 or jhinkley@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley. Sign up for his email newsletter, SoM Weekly, at on.lsj.com/somsignup. 

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