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Struggles at Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs start with staffing issues, payroll analysis indicates

Tulsa World - 3/6/2017

Imagine going to work at a company where nearly two-thirds of the workforce will have moved on in less than two years.

That's the reality at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, where the turnover rate was 62 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to a Tulsa World analysis of payroll data.

The high turnover, coupled with overtime cuts and a recent increase in part-time staff hours worked, has put a squeeze on current agency staff, the data suggests. The Tulsa World looked at ODVA payroll figures for calendar years, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

While the state agency operates on the fiscal year budget that ends June 30 of every year, a review by calendar year allows a comparison of the latest figures available.

The data shows:

Overtime hours worked at the agency have plummeted 44 percent in the last six months of 2016;

The total number hours worked by part-time staff increased slightly (3 percent), from 2015 to 2016; and

Despite the cuts in overtime, some employees worked hundreds of hours of overtime in 2016.

A World comparison of payroll data for the agency showed that the agency employed 3,357 workers at one time or another during calendar year 2014.

But a comparison of the 2014 employee payroll to a 2016 payroll found 2,073 staffers no longer worked at the agency.

While disconcerting, studies suggest that the turnover rate at the ODVA is not unique. One 2005 California study found that nursing staff turnover at nursing homes ranged between 55 percent and 75 percent.

Patient-care assistants, those working on the bottom rung of the pay ladder, drive much of the turnover rate at the Oklahoma agency.

Between 2014 and 2016: 1,068 of the 1,590 ODVA employees who worked as patient-care assistants no longer worked in that position at the agency, records show.

In the meantime, overtime hours have also declined in the past two years, especially during the last half of 2016.

ODVA employees worked 102,781 overtime hours in 2015, compared to 83,672 in 2016, a 19 percent decrease.

However, during the last six months of 2016, employees worked 44 percent fewer overtime hours compared to the same time period in 2015.

In 2016, patient-care assistants worked the most overtime among employees at the ODVA facilities, logging a total of 47,213 hours beyond the 40-hour work week, a World analysis shows.

The next closest employee group in terms of overtime worked was licensed practical nurses, who worked a collective 27,102 hours of overtime.

One patient-care assistant, Carlton L. Scott, worked 1,031 hours of overtime during 2016, or an average of 20 hours per week, every week, for the entire year. During one two-week pay period, Scott logged 75 hours of overtime, records show.

Five other patient-care assistants worked between 576 and 885 hours of overtime in 2016.

Another patient-care assistant, Ginger L. Hermann, logged the most overtime in a two-week pay period. Hermann worked 147 hours during a pay period ending in July 2016.

Meanwhile, total part-time hours worked increased 17 percent during the last six months of 2016, compared to the same time period in 2015.

When asked for comment, ODVA spokesman Shane Faulkner provided an email stating, "The overtime accumulated by the two employees you listed has been addressed."

 
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