Administrative Perspective

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 in News from Administration | Comments Off on Administrative Perspective

As a member of the Summit medical staff for many years, I have enjoyed reading the Summit Medical Staff Newsletter and appreciate the opportunity to now contribute an administrative perspective.  I have been asked questions by many physicians about the recurrent nursing union strikes.

First, I want to take a moment to thank the medical staff for continuing to provide excellent patient care during our series of recent strikes and for helping administration run our hospital.  As a practicing clinician at Alta Bates Summit for 17 years, I know that changes in work flow presented by these repeated strikes are challenging and can have a significant impact on your work.  Your hard work and dedication to our patients and staff have been critical to our mission of providing safe patient care.

We have now been through five strikes since September of 2011. The good news is, with each strike, we have improved our ability to anticipate the needs of docs, patients and staff, and this has led to increasingly normal operations during the strike/replacement period. For example, during the first couple of strikes, we limited elective surgical cases but have not needed to do that during the last several strikes. If we have future strikes, we will work hard to continue to operate the hospital with a “business-as-usual” mentality, while always keeping patient safety as our top priority.

The increasingly large “crossover” rate of our regular nurses has helped us normalize patient care, especially at the Summit Campus, where more than half of our regular nurses now come to work during the strike. While we respect the right of our unionized nurses to strike, we greatly appreciate the growing number of nurses who come to work to help provide care for our patients.

I have been asked several times why we need to replace the striking nurses for five days when they only strike for one day. In order to get more than 500 replacement staff for the strikes, we have to fly nurses in from across the U.S., and our contract with our replacement agency requires us to pay for five days of bedside care by the replacement nurses. Because our nurses have the right to strike and their union is choosing to do so repeatedly, we must provide a safe/effective care environment with replacement staff. It would be fiscally unwise to pay replacement nurses while allowing striking nurses to return to work and paying them as well. The best solution is for the nurses’ union to stop striking and to engage in earnest discussions with the medical center on a new contract that helps us address our very real financial challenges while still treating our great nurses fairly.

Chuck Prosper recently sent an email to all employees and doctors with a link to our last, best and final offer to the nurses’ union. People with questions about what is truly on the table can read for themselves. We believe this is a fair and generous offer and look forward to ongoing discussions with our nurses’ union with the aim of coming to agreement as soon as possible. The bottom line is we know we have excellent nurses, and we look forward to the resolution of the contracting issues.

Those of us who have been here for many years remember that we have had contentious labor issues before. Labor negotiations are a normal part of business in our highly unionized environment. During times of strikes or other labor strife, the environment can feel contentious, but ultimately there is resolution and things return to normal. Our mutual job is to keep our primary focus on patients and the delivery of excellent, safe care.  The care you provide to patients is critical to the health care network of our community. We value you, our patients and our staff.