SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL: Commissioners Delay Vote on Pharmacy Closing
The San Francisco Health Commission Tuesday postponed a vote on the "controversial plan to close the pharmacy at San Francisco General Hospital," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The $8.4 million plan, which calls for 60,000 poor patients to get their prescriptions at any of the city's 117 private pharmacies, has been strongly opposed by unions. Josie Mooney, executive director of Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union, told the commission that the plan would violate the city's contract with union workers because it calls for "contacting jobs" out to nonunion employees. She said the union would seek arbitration if the proposal was passed, and expressed hope that Mayor Willie Brown (D) would intervene in the dispute. Funding for the plan, first devised in February by Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the Department of Public Health, has already been allocated in the mayor's signed and approved budget. But Health Commissioner Lee Ann Monfredini said yesterday in explaining her decision to delay the vote for two weeks, "This is an act of futility if this is going to end up as a one-on-one conversation in the mayor's office with a union rep. ... I need to know if I'm being set up by the mayor -- to approve this and then he'll take it off the table." The five other commissioners all joined Monfredini in deciding to postpone the vote.
In Defense Of The Plan
Responding to the union's charges, the Department of Health said that none of the 19 pharmacy workers currently employed at San Francisco General will lose their jobs. Deputy City Attorney Jean Frasier added yesterday that the union's charge of contracting out is not valid in this instance "because many pharmacy workers already work on a per diem basis as outside contractors." Katz said that the program would save the city $1.7 million each year and reduce the waiting time for poor individuals who could get their prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The commission will meet on Oct. 31 to revisit the issue (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18).