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$85,000 in overpayments to county hospital and health workers, audit finds

May 1, 2010 |  8:00 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef01156eda819a970c-pi

Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and the Department of Health Services overpaid workers tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, sick pay, disability pay and overtime and need to do more to monitor both over- and underpayments, according to an audit released this week.

The county audit, initiated two years ago and released Tuesday, found $85,000 in overpayments, including:

-- $18,000 in bonuses that went to 15 employees ineligible for extra pay. Thirteen of the workers were being compensated for "fire watch" they had not performed in months

-- $9,500 in extra pay to 23 workers who had been absent for extended periods and should have had their bonus pay suspended

-- $20,000 in compensation overpaid to employees who'd been injured on the job but had either returned to work or classified as permanently disabled

In addition, auditors found the county was slow to pursue recovering salary overpayments. An analysis of nearly $16,000 overpaid to 10 employees between January and October 2008 found that by March 2009, county officials had sent letters to only two of the workers and had recovered only $1,033.

Auditors recommended that both hospital and health services officials improve how they monitor employee compensation and time cards.

In a written response to the audit, department officials said they accepted the findings and recommendations and have corrected their mistakes, since recovering overpayments, adjusting some employees’ leave and repaying others.

“We’ve put a lot of protocols in place in order to ensure it does not happen again,” said Greg Polk, an administrative deputy with the department.

Auditors are reviewing the finances of all county hospitals, Polk said.

An audit of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center released last year also revealed employee overpayment errors, including $2 million in bonus overpayments to nurses. But Polk said the problem is not widespread and that after the Rancho audit, department officials created a bonus review unit to prevent errors.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: L.A. Times file

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