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     Overtime: Work performed by an employee or worker in excess of a basic workday, as defined by company rules, statute, or union agreement. — Business Dictionary

A million dollars isn’t what it used to be, but the Human Services Center in Yankton has spent $1 million on overtime pay this budget year.

Wait, there’s more.

That tidy sum was matched by a similar amount in Redfield at the South Dakota Developmental Center.

Both facilities are state operated. HSC treats mental disorders and chemical dependency and the Redfield center focuses on developmental disabilities.

Is it a concern to anyone when two state institutions account for more than $2 million in overtime when the entire state overtime budget is $10 million a year, total?

As surprising as the numbers are, it’s not the story, at least not the front page, banner headline story.

Overtime bloat is the symptom of a much more serious problem: Unfilled job positions.

This isn’t new for the two institutions in question, and obviously those in charge haven’t found the solution. However, the problem at the two state facilities is comparable to what’s going on in rural South Dakota, where smaller towns cannot find workers to fill the positions at nursing homes and hospitals.

Ironic, isn’t it, that for decades, economic development experts have been saying that young people from small towns and surrounding farms leave for the cities because there are no jobs at home. In fact, small towns like Gregory, Platte, Highmore, Parkston, Winner, and Chamberlain – virtually any town with a nursing home or hospital – can’t find enough workers, specifically LPNs, RNs or CNAs (certified nursing assistant).

Instead, many of these rural communities bring in outside help, called “travelers,” who pick up the slack. Travelers are professional health care workers who arrive by contract and work a specified time period, often 13 weeks. They are paid much, much more than the advertised opening – perhaps twice as much, $40 an hour compared to $20 – for an LPN.

Avera has 148 openings for LPNs across its system, primarily in South Dakota. Sanford’s situation likely is similar.

So why not pay more to begin with and attract more applicants who would actually live in the communities, even if smaller towns weren’t their first choice?  That would be a good opening question for the bosses at Avera and Sanford, which now control rural health care in South Dakota.

There’s a chance that the corporate mentality based in Sioux Falls isn’t tuned in to the challenges of rural South Dakota.

When it comes to health care, one size doesn’t fit all.

April 12, 2017