SAN JOSE: Citing Lack of Patient Control, Clinic Doctors Unionize
Frustrated with working conditions, a group of 46 health care professionals at the five Gardner Family Health Network Inc. clinics voted to unionize, the San Jose Mercury News reports. According to the clinic staff, "tightfisted management" has forced them to join the Union of American Physicians and Dentists -- an Oakland-based union with 6,000 members. The doctors and dentists argue that their ability to provide high-quality service to the area's low-income families, including many recent Latino and Asian immigrants, has been compromised due to patient quotas: physicians are required to see 24 patients in eight hours. Internist Benjamin Hernandez said the schedule does not allow "enough time for each patient, particularly for the elderly" who have complex illnesses. But Gardner CEO Reymundo Espinoza claimed the stress stems from the network being "overused and underfunded." Last year, the network cared for 40,000 patients, totalling 250,000 visits. Gardner also treated 15% more uninsured people last year than in 1998, while receiving an $800,000 Medicare reimbursement reduction. Espinoza said, "We want to see what (the doctors') issues are, and move forward. But we need to live within our means." One dentist responded, saying, "Our concerns are not about money -- wages or benefits. ... But we want a voice in how we treat our patients, how they are scheduled, and how much time is allotted to see them" (Krieger, 1/27).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.