Back in July, the Lewiston, Maine Sun Journal published an editorial entitled "A matter of convenience," supporting a move to furlough state employees for 20 days spread out over the year but disagreeing with a plan to require those furlough days to be taken in such a way as to lengthen regular holiday weekends. "What isn't so good is the inability of that public to access government services during these furlough days, most of which are conveniently scheduled to extend already long weekends for government workers.... The shutdown days were scheduled to save salaries, not the costs of heating, cooling, insuring or otherwise of operating offices, so there was no real need to tie these days to existing holidays."
Well, it looks like those editorial writers had the right concerns. A colleague wrote me last night:
I was in Mid-Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, all weekend with my father, who was suffering from a viral infection that was giving him some kind of dementia. It may have been H1N1, possibly Lyme disease. But here's the kicker. The Maine state lab employees were on furlough. No test result, which resulted in us staying the whole weekend and my father leaving without a result. Hospital officials said that Medicare and Medicaid patients also had to stay longer because there was no one to process their papers. Amazing. It was frugality over functionality, and blind bureaucracy trying to find savings that ended up costing probably millions in unnecessary health claims.