Resident Physicians Ask Children’s Hospital Oakland to Show Some Love

by Heather Appel on March 10, 2014

The resident physicians at Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO) got a special delivery on Valentine’s Day this year, but not from their secret admirers. They received hundreds of cards from patients, staff and community members, along with an oversized teddy bear card that read, “Dear CHO, we love our resident doctors! Please be fair to those who care and bargain a fair contract! Love, your patients, parents, and staff.”

The physicians, members of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare) have been at the bargaining table with the hospital for nearly a year, since April 2013 and are currently working without a contract. To date, the hospital’s negotiating team has rejected all of the union’s proposals, leaving residents feeling like they are being left behind in the highly-publicized affiliation between UCSF and CHO. The hospital’s position is to freeze resident salaries for the next 3 years, creating a two-tiered system, where CHO residents are paid a lower rate working than UCSF residents while working side by side.

“I am extremely proud of Children’s Hospital Oakland and want to continue to stay proud of it and be able to honestly say that we are providing the best care in the Bay Area,” said Dr. Ana Liang. “If our program fails to recruit caring, responsible and hard-working residents, our patients start to suffer and that is not where I want our program to go in the years to come. It is just simple reality that salary and benefits impact where a potential resident decides to go.”

Another priority for of the residents is having a regular walk-through of the hospital to ensure that equipment is in working order.

“Now that we are completely on an electronic medical record system, ensuring that our technical equipment, such as desktop computers, printers, wireless computers on wheels, is crucial to patient care,” said Dr. Christiana Tai. “Oftentimes malfunctioning equipment takes weeks to be recognized and fixed or replaced. Taking a more active role in trouble-shooting IT issues is essential to making sure that patient care is never compromised due to ‘technical difficulties.’”

The residents presented the valentines from patients to the hospital’s Chief of Pediatrics and Senior Vice President, as a friendly reminder that patients and community members care about how the resident doctors are treated.

Elected officials have also written to the hospital’s administration, asking them to bargain in good faith and settle a contract quickly.

Another key issue is the expansion of the hospital’s Patient Care Fund. Residents have been raising money for several years to provide discharge medications for patients and families who don’t have the means to purchase expensive medications. Now, they are asking the hospital to contribute to the fund to help close gaps in patient care.

“As medical providers, it’s very unsettling to worry that patients won’t continue to do well at home simply because they cannot afford the medications we prescribe when it’s time for them to go home. It serves as an important safety net for patients who are awaiting insurance authorization, or just a few more days of antibiotics left to take,” said Dr. Tai. “We hope that expanding the Patient Care Fund will also allow us to buy and replace hospital equipment such as translator phones, and bedside bladder ultrasound scanners to improve the care we provide to hospitalized patients.”

The resident physicians plan to persist at the bargaining table and hope to come out with competitive salaries that will aid in recruiting the next generation of physicians, along with the patient care measures they’ve proposed.

For the latest updates on the fight for a fair contract at CHO, visit www.cirseiu.org/CHODocs

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