Staffing UC Hospitals: How Much Care?

Leaders in SF team up with staff to protest cuts

by Brian Leubitz

The UC health care system is one of the best in the world. However, beneath the reputation, there is a serious staffing issue. While management costs have ballooned over the past few years, administrators are working to make big cuts to employees who actually provide care. In a recent report, AFSCME 3299 cited some disturbing trends.

Since 2009, management at UC Medical Centers has grown by 38 percent, adding $100 million to the annual payroll cost of management. Debt service payments have almost quadrupled since 2006. This diversion of patient care dollars results in management's need to reduce expenses to increase margins.

While increasing efficiency and productivity doesn't have to necessarily hurt patient care, if done incorrectly, it can have serious negative consequences. Often taking the form of aggressive cost-cutting measures, some translate into chronic short staffing, over scheduling of operating rooms, prioritizing "VIP" patients over everyone else, shortchanging charity care, and outsourcing essential services. These degrade the medical centers' core mission.

UCSF Medical Center is a hospital on the rise, and the new city rising up in Mission Bay can attest to that. However, while the hospital is being built, with all the debt that comes along with that, the hospital itself is slashing costs. Hospital management recently announced cuts of over 300 staff, 4% of its full-time workforce. These cuts can have real consequences.

"Both at UCSF, and across the UC Medical system, misguided management priorities are putting providers at risk and degrading the quality of patient care," said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger.   "That's why we are coming together to demand safe staffing for UC patients, and basic fairness to the frontline care workers who devote their lives to our families, friends, and communities."

On Thursday, around lunch time, local elected and labor leaders will join with AFSCME 3299 to protest the cuts at UCSF's Parnassus campus. UCSF has an opportunity to truly work to maximize patient care, let's hope they choose that option.

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