Sick time at DHS field offices up since UHIP launch

DHS Department of Human Services Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Data obtained by Eyewitness News reveals that sick time has gone up by nearly 1,000 hours in the weeks during and right after the new UHIP computer system’s launch.

It’s another issue caused by the state’s launch of the $364-million benefits eligibility system, which has already caused glitches online and produced long lines in field offices.

Lucie Burdick, president of one of the unions that represents Department of Human Services employees, said she thinks that stress is a factor in the increased sick time.

“The amount of stress on a social worker not being able to do their job because of a resource, a computer, that’s supposed to help them do their job not functioning, is tremendous. I can’t begin to explain to you what it feels like when your job is to help people and they’re coming in and they’re leaving harmed,” Burdick said.

According to DHS data, field office employees had 15,770 hours of sick time over a five-week period before the system’s launch. In a similar five-week period during and after the launch, field office employees had 16,618 hours of sick time, an increase of 848 hours or 5%.

A spokesperson for the Department of Administration said officials “are mindful that the roles of our eligibility technicians have become more challenging with the launch of the new system.”

She continued by saying that DHS leaders do not believe the sick-time numbers are representative of a larger trend and that their employees are continuing to provide much-needed services and benefits.

Burdick has called for a federal forensic audit of the entire UHIP system. State officials say that’s not necessary.