SAN JOSE MEDICAL: Angers Union With Reduced Hours
A move by the San Jose Medical Group to reduce the hours of its urgent-care clinics by 30% is being "blasted" by the "union representing medical assistants and licensed vocational nurses ... as a cost-saving move that will harm patients." Health Care Workers Union Local 250 officials charged that "the cuts were made to help pay off a $4 million loan from UniMed Management Services," which "teamed up with the San Jose Medical Group in 1995." The San Jose Medical Group, which serves about 200,000 patients and 23 health plans, is "one of the county's largest health care providers," the San Jose Mercury News reports. It operates urgent-care clinics in Milpitas, San Jose and Morgan Hill. Dr. Victor Corsiglia, president of San Jose Medical Group, said the reduction in operating hours was "not made to save money but to improve patient care by shifting more patients to their primary physician instead of an unfamiliar doctor at an urgent- care clinic." He added, "Primary physicians will make room for urgent cases each day." But union officials disagreed, saying "the cuts will increase the two- to four-week waiting time many patients already encounter in scheduling regular doctor's appointments because their doctors will be forced to squeeze in urgent cases each day."
Slim And Trim
According to minutes from the medical group's November 19 meeting, the cut in hours will "save $300,000 to $400,000 in the 1998 budget;" another $300,000 will be saved by "closing the Oakridge clinic and eliminating family practice services in the Los Gatos clinic by converting it into a center for specialists." Corsiglia said the reduction in hours "will relieve congestion at urgent-care clinics, which some patient have started using simply as a way of avoiding having to make appointments." However, union official Dan Martin said the primary-care doctors' schedules are already "backlogged." He asked, "So what are your chances of being able to get in to see a primary care doctor in an acute-care matter?" (Puzzanghera, 3/3).