Alameda County Medical Center Moves To Replace John George Doctors With Contractors
Alameda County Medical Center -- which operates the inpatient psychiatric hospital John George Psychiatric Pavilion -- plans to eliminate 40 psychiatrist and five physician positions at John George on June 1, according to a March 28 letter sent to the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, the Oakland Tribune reports.
John George "intends to eliminate the services of all employed physicians for all shifts ... and will contract with a single provider for the purposes of staffing both inpatient and emergency services," the letter -- by Joyce McGlory, interim chief human resources officer for ACMC -- states.
ACMC interim CEO Claude Watts said he would like to replace the part-time staff physicians with nine full-time contractors. Watts said he did not have a cost estimate for replacing the staff.
John George currently contracts with the Waraich Group for eight full-time psychiatrists for $24,550 each per month, or $294,600 annually. Payments to the group are not to exceed $3 million annually, according to the contract, which expires in April.
Staff psychiatrists are paid as much as $155,000 annually plus benefits, according to UAPD officials. The psychiatric emergency department's budget for doctors' salaries, excluding benefits, is $1.5 million.
Doctors who would like to continue working at John George would have to reapply through the contracting provider. They would lose benefits and eligibility for retirement plans they currently receive as employees of the ACMC.
Before terminating the physicians' contracts, ACMC is required by law to meet and confer with UAPD.
UAPD has requested to meet with medical center officials but has not received a reply, according to union spokesperson Patricia Hernandez. She said that the letter announcing the decision violated the doctors' contract.
The proposal will go to the ACMC Board of Trustees Finance Committee in May and could be approved by the full board in June.
Watts said, "I believe this will improve patient care and consistency," adding, "We are dealing with a bunch of [part-time psychiatrists] who work one shift a month or every other month."
UAPD officials said it is not feasible to staff a psychiatric ED with fewer full-time workers because of the 24-hour nature of care.
Hernandez said, "Either this is union-busting or they are bent on stripping doctors of their retirement ... Contracting out services is only something we can meet and confer over if it is necessary, such as if there were a shortage of doctors. This isn't broken, so why fix it?"
Federal inspectors have cited John George for inconsistencies in psychiatric care and patient care violations. Cambio Health Solutions, which has managed ACMC and John George since February 2004, has renegotiated contracts across the facility (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 4/22).