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Letter: Stony Brook Hosp. and overtime pay

The exterior of Stony Brook University Hospital at

The exterior of Stony Brook University Hospital at 101 Nicolls Rd. in Stony Brook. Credit: James Carbone, 2009

The use of overtime by hospitals is an important part of prudent management of patient care and is standard practice in the healthcare industry ["LI near top in overtime pay," News, Jan. 25]. Because the number of hospital patients fluctuates daily, hospitals need flexibility to call in nursing and other staff to care for additional patients, as caring for patients is our top priority. Paying staff overtime to voluntarily work additional shifts gives hospitals that flexibility.

It also minimizes costs. At Stony Brook University Hospital, hourly overtime costs are 12.8 percent less than hourly pay plus state employee benefits for a full-time nurse. As a state institution, our benefit costs are 40 percent of salary costs -- including state pension costs, which are paid by taxpayer dollars. Salary costs, on the other hand, are covered solely by revenue from hospital operations.

Our hospital administration routinely reviews overtime hours and flags higher-than-expected payments. In most instances, the overtime is justified, as our nurses are responding to our patients' needs.

As a state agency, Stony Brook University Hospital has participated in recent state budget cuts. We recognize our responsibility to help reduce the state budget deficit. Unlike other state entities, however, hospitals must remain fully staffed 24 hours a day, some of which includes overtime coverage, to care for our patients.

Less than 3 percent of the hospital's annual operating budget comes from the State of New York. To help offset reduced state support, we are finding ever-more efficient ways of operating, so we can continue to generate excess revenue for reinvestment in healthcare services for patients and families. Fortunately, we have maintained our profitability while improving our efficiencies. The result is smarter, more cost-effective care for our patients.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky

Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak

Editor's note: The writers are, respectively, the dean of the university's school of medicine and chief executive of the hospital.