UCSF-STANFORD: Union Workers Picket in Protest of Hunter Group
About 200 members of Local 715 of the Service Employees International Union protested yesterday at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospitals in Palo Alto, speaking out against the Florida-based Hunter Group. The consulting firm, which took over management of the UCSF Stanford system after President Peter Van Etten and EVP William Kerr resigned last week, is "known for its cost-cutting measures." Union members say the group's appointment is "a sign that working conditions will not get better, but progressively worse" (Lynem, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/13). The San Francisco Examiner reports that "[w]herever the Hunter Group appears, hospital employees respond like the denizens of Tokyo at the moment Godzilla crossed their city limits." Such fears are based on precedent: The company slashed 2,000 jobs at Detroit Medical Center in February and 1,000 positions at San Francisco-based California Pacific Medical Center in 1994. But Denver-based consultant Dean Coddington says the Hunter Group plays "the necessary role of villain" wherever it goes, making unpopular turnaround decisions that few CEOs could survive. UCSF Stanford board member Meredith Khachigian noted also that the group will be acting under oversight from the board, adding that the system is unlikely to abandon its mission of providing medical care to the poor (Dougan, 8/11).
Stop the Madness
Writing in yesterday's San Francisco Examiner UCSF Faculty Association Chair and professor of medicine Warren Gold calls for immediate dissolution of the Stanford-UCSF merger, saying it has "forced us to behave more like a profit-making business than a public academic institution." Gold writes, "Teaching, research and service are increasingly viewed as wasting time because they do not generate cash. If this trend continues, we will see the quality of the faculty and the university deteriorate." He lists numerous merger offenses, including a "massive and expensive layer of bureaucracy," a "top-down corporate management style" that has "created deep distrust by the faculty," and "excuses and complaints" instead of admissions of responsibility for mismanagement. Gold also questions the recent discovery that UCSF Stanford currently holds a 'cash reserve' fund of $500 million, noting that this reserve could "finance all the Mt. Zion losses twice over." Savings on interest by not doing so, Gold notes, "is only $140,000 a year -- about one month's rent on UCSF Stanford's executive office suite. This money would be better spent on quality health care." Gold concludes, "The longer we wait before acting, the more difficult it will be to get UCSF back on track" (8/12).