23 Aug 2014
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A Doctor Strike in Santa Clara County? Possibly, Physicians Union Says

Strike considered for April 7 would be first in decades in California. One MD says: “Santa Clara County has pushed these people too far.”

A Doctor Strike in Santa Clara County? Possibly, Physicians Union Says
Some doctors in Santa Clara County will spend National Doctors’ Day, March 30, organizing for a strike against their employer, according to the  Union of American Physicians and Dentists .

In mid-March, doctors represented by the UAPD voted overwhelmingly in favor of going on strike against Santa Clara County. After two subsequent meetings with management failed to resolve open negotiating issues, doctors set a strike date of April 7, said the union announcement.

About 60 doctors, who work primarily in the County’s Mental Health Department, have been without a contract since October 2013, the union spokesperson said.

"Santa Clara doctors have expressed concern about an increase in the use of seclusion and restraint in County facilities," the release stated. "They are looking for contract language to address that patient safety issue."

Another conflict in these negotiations is that the County has begun demanding that doctors work evening and weekend hours, the union stated. 

“Many doctors here have obligations that make night and weekend work impossible.  Suddenly they are being told they have to show up for nighttime shifts or risk being fired,” explained Dr. Jan Weber, a child psychiatrist on the UAPD Negotiating Team.     
 
There is also evidence that Santa Clara County wants to eliminate its staff of doctors entirely, according to the union. 

“They consistently underpay this group of psychiatrists, to the point that they can’t find people to do the work that needs to be done.  And then residents of the County go without critical mental health services,” said Patricia Hernandez, a UAPD Senior Labor Representative who is negotiating the contact.  

Earlier this year the Union thwarted the County’s efforts to outsource a large number of physician jobs to a private company that pays its contractors a higher rate than the County pays its doctors, the union said.

The April 7 action will be the first doctors’ strike in California in decades. 

“It takes a lot of frustration to cause doctors to walk away from their jobs,” said UAPD President Dr. Stuart A. Bussey.  “But Santa Clara County has pushed these people too far.” 

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