Labor Leaders Say University of California Teaching Hospitals Understaffed, ‘Poorly Prepared’ for Disaster
Employees of University of California teaching hospitals receive low salaries and are quitting for higher-paying jobs, leaving the system "poorly prepared" to handle a potential disaster, leaders of the University Professional and Technical Employees Union said Monday during press conferences around the state. The union is in salary negotiations on behalf of 2,100 of the UC system's pharmacists, social workers and lab technicians. David Neal, an operating room technician at the University of California-San Diego, said, "Right now we can only handle at most two trauma cases at a time in the operating room, and 10 to 15 in the emergency room." But Dr. Jake Jacoby, UCSD's disaster control officer and the head of a San Diego-based team of medical experts that responds to national disasters, said that the UCSD team "would know very quickly if the problem exceeded [its] ability to handle it" and when to request outside help. UCSD officials added that the system is no more understaffed than other hospital systems. But Jeliger Kalmijn, labor union president and a UCSD psychology research associate, said, "The university system is unwilling to deal with staff shortages," noting that system negotiators canceled contract talks. UCSD public affairs officer Leslie Franz said the talks were canceled because they had been scheduled for Sept. 11, and negotiators were unable to travel after domestic flights were grounded. She added, "These employees are using this period of community distress to bring attention to their own demands as employees." Some union members say that the university is "stalling." Kalmijn said, "They're trying to browbeat us into accepting a contract that would serve only to harm our hospitals and ultimately deny services to people who need them" (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/16).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.