BAY AREA: Are Strikes a Threat to Public Health?
While about 3,500 Bay Area health care workers at several area hospitals continue to strike today, Alameda County's public health officer Dr. Arthur Chen warned that "future walkouts could create a public health crisis," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Chen said that the trend lately has been for "routine" labor disputes to turn into public health care crises. He added, "We need to explore last resort policies that will give us leverage to prevent these types of actions from putting the public's health at risk." Bay Area workers went on strike yesterday after talks between the Service Employees International Union Local 250, Sutter Health and Catholic Healthcare West faltered this week. Union members maintain that they should be given a say in hospital staffing and a wage increase. Almost all of the seven affected hospitals had enough staff and beds to operate properly during the strike yesterday (Pimentel/St. John, 8/3). During a meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' health committee, Chen suggested that the county explore government intervention in future contract negotiations. He said, "Clearly, that's not something we're really excited about getting involved in. On the other hand, if the job action puts public health at risk, we have to take that into consideration." Chen also recommended looking into staffing standards and hospital revenue; continuing to focus on patient care issues; revising hospitals' emergency codes; and ensuring that hospitals maintain enough open beds during walkouts (Anderson, Contra Costa Times, 8/3). John Borsos, Local 250 hospital division director, said that the union's bargaining committees will decide the next step if CHW and Sutter "don't give in to [the union's] demands before the end of the strike today" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.