Government Nurses Joining Quarter-Million-Dollar Club


State reluctant to detail how nine employees of taxpayer-funded Eleanor Slater Hospital pull in over $100,000 each in extra pay


Stella Adeniyi has worked for the State of Rhode Island as a registered nurse at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston since 1990. In 2011, on top of her regular pay of $97,460, Adeniyi took home $172,398 for working overtime, putting her gross pay at $269,858.

The standard workweek for registered nurses in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) is 40 hours. If Adeniyi were to make 1.5 times her normal hourly salary for overtime, she would have had to work 87 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, in order to earn her total pay.

According to data collected by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, Adeniyi topped the list of overtime payments to the 17,206 employees on the state payroll that year.

She is one of nine staff members — six nurses and three psychiatrists — currently at Eleanor Slater who took home more than $100,000 in overtime pay in fiscal year 2011. Another three nurses on the 2011 payroll list for BHDDH, all hired in the 1980s, are no longer among the department’s personnel. The total cost of paying just overtime to those twelve employees was $1,485,346. The year before, the same dozen employees took home $1,379,769 in overtime.

Nurse supervisor Sylvia Macagba was second to Adeniyi in her overtime earnings for 2011. She was paid $158,462 on top of her regular salary of $104,590, to give her total pay of $263,052.

Employees at the hospital did not return calls for comment. Instead, a spokeswoman for BHDDH, Deb Varga, asked that all requests for information go through her.

But after three days, Varga said she was unable to provide specific information on why the state employees were able to more than double their salaries through overtime payments.

“You should know that the numbers include a number of additions including overtime, shift differential, longevity, on-call, special care agreements, etc.,” she said in an email.

Getting access to the payroll data that revealed the employees’ overtime pay was also difficult. After nearly a year of back-and-forth communications and meetings, the Department of Administration denied the Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s request. The Center’s transparency partner, Visible Government Online, ultimately acquired the information from a watchdog group at Northeastern University.

Michael Walker, a founding partner of Visible Government, said that Rhode Island proved to be the most difficult of the 25 states from which he’s requested this data — “by a considerable margin.”

Eleanor Slater plays a unique role among hospitals in Rhode Island because so many of its beds are devoted to psychiatric care and complex medical cases. Most of its patients are eligible for Medicaid, according to David Burnett, chief of government and public affairs for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). That means the state and federal governments end up paying for most of the care the patients at the hospital receive.

According to a recently released Rhode Island Waste and Fraud Report, it is more expensive to treat patients at Eleanor Slater than at other long-term healthcare facilities.

The report says that Eleanor Slater had an “average cost of $957 per day per patient, compared with an average nursing home cost of $155 per day per patient.” It goes on to describe the hospital as operating “far below maximum patient capacity.”

Burnett said Eleanor Slater’s unique mission makes it difficult to compare to other facilities. He also explained that the Medicaid reimbursements are not based on fixed rates for service, but rather are based on the costs at a particular facility, so if it costs more to run a hospital, it can charge Medicaid higher rates.

In the case of Eleanor Slater, EOHHS pays each claim in full and periodically applies to the federal government for the matching payments.

The state’s behavioral healthcare department overspent its budget in at least the past two years, in part because of overtime payments, according to state financial reports. The reports blame staff vacancies for the need to spend extra state money on overtime. Linda McDonald, president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals, a labor union representing nurses at Eleanor Slater Hospital, also cited the number of nurses on staff to explain the high overtime payments.

The current list of job openings in the state includes five psychiatric institution attendant listings at Eleanor Slater. Those positions require an eighth grade education, some work experience, and state certification as a nursing assistant.

The twelve nurses and doctors with BHDDH who received over $100,000 in overtime were among 33 state employees who pulled in six figures in overtime last year. Most of those same employees were near the top of the list for overtime the year before.

The other individuals who were paid over $100,000 in overtime in BHDDH in fiscal year 2011 include:

  • Abella Corpus, Nurse Supervisor, salary: $104,878, overtime: $142,060, total: $246,938
  • Pedro Tactacan, Assistant Chief of Psychiatric Services, salary: $135,960, overtime: $109,700, total: $245,660
  • Sung Lee, Registered Nurse, salary: $92,443, overtime: $140,507, total: $232,950
  • Angela Lacombe, Psychiatrist, salary: $111,895, overtime: $105,121, total: $217,016
  • June Nwanna, Registered Nurse, salary: $84,153, overtime: $130,420, total: $214,573
  • Carl Langley, Nurse Supervisor, salary: $100,996, overtime: $100,080, total: $201,076
  • Cecilia Falguera, Registered Nurse, salary: $92,337, overtime: $106,355, total: $198,692
  • Josephine St. John, Registered Nurse, salary: $84,259, overtime: $109,946, total: $194,205
  • Thelma McGuirl, Registered Nurse, salary: $90,943, overtime: $102,017, total: $192,960
  • Kerstin Uy, Psychiatrist, salary: $63,275, overtime: $108,280, total: $171,555

Suzanne Bates is a freelance writer and a research fellow at the Yankee Institute for Public Policy in Connecticut.

  • leprechaun

    I wonder if all the patients at this facility have Social Security numbers. I wonder if anyone even checks. Don't you think we should check if it's costing R I Taxpayers over $900 dollars a day. Would that qualify as waste, fraud or abuse?

  • Monique

    Wow. This is insanity.

    One of the ways to arrange to get O.T. is, someone else calls in "sick" and you have to go in on O.T. (Then you happily reciprocate for that person down the road.)

    So the question is, what is the rate of employees going out on sick time in the public sector versus the private sector?

    • tom

      the over time does not work that way. you can't call out sick to give a friend over time it runs on a roatating list and the nurses don't see the list so they can't even work it in there favore.

  • Dennis

    And what is going to happen next? I think there should be a full on investigation and people need to pay that money back or community service. Know wonder we have such unemployment! this could be another 30 – 50 jobs!

  • How can this occur and be on the books and our state government does not know about it.? far from rooting out inefficiency, this Government and our system is clearly filled with cheaters and is irreparably corrupt. Trust Chafee? I don't think so.
    Great Story, thanks for pursuing it.

  • Mike

    Dennis, there won't be an investigation as long as Governor Gump and the current GA is in place. Those people just don't care about controlling costs.

  • Chris

    I just sent a letter to my 3 state reps and 2 state senators about this "overtime abuse arrangement." AND it is an "arrangement."
    Please write to your reps/senators and let them know you want to know WHO is responsible and HOW it can go on year after year

  • MyCash2Gov

    The assistant chief of Psychiatric Services is paid overtime??? Since when do managers get paid overtime?

  • If these people are working 80-90 hours per week 52 weeks per year for several years I cannot believe that they are providing quality care.

  • Dr Bose

    This is long ago. Cook county hospital used to be one of the premier teaching hospitals in the nation. They had thousands of poor patients, for young med students, their young teachers and residents to learn on, teach on etc.
    The Chief Medical officer was one of the highest salaried person in Illinois, made more than the Governor. I had a friend who was two years jr. to me in Medical College.He came there as an intern, and could not make up his mind on a specificity for residency. He asked me, once to tell him which one he should take.
    Luckily for him an unexpected position opened for a first yer in Derm, which was usually very hard to get, the candidate having been to sent to Vietnam.
    During his internship and residency, his pay check came just below that of the chief, having worked most of his waking hours, in various ERs and in County itself. He bought a home during training.

  • John

    There is a long list of recently graduated registered nurses out there looking for jobs. They would not only appreciate a position at a normal pay scale for RN's with a BA and at the Eleanor Slater Hospital but, oh yes, this would eliminate a substantial amount of overtime and save the State money. Silly me!

  • Joan

    This is going on in our whole county.. No wonder almost every state is going bankrupt, do we have anyone in office that cares how the money is going down the drain?

  • I love looking through a post that will make men and women think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

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