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CA physicians’ union nears strike as working conditions continue to suffer – MedCity News

CA physicians’ union nears strike as working conditions continue to suffer – MedCity News

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More than 90 percent of physicians who are part of a labor union in Santa Clara County have voted to authorize a strike if the county continues to act in bad faith with regard to working conditions affecting patient care and physician’s mental health, the labor union Valley Physicians Group announced Tuesday.

The VPG labor union includes more than 450 physicians in Santa Clara County who work for the county’s public health and hospital system. The strike authorization vote comes after survey results from VPG earlier this month that showed 68 percent of respondents reported they are contemplating leaving public employment with the county in the next three years, illustrating the degree of dissatisfaction physicians are experiencing.

“A strike is always a last resort and never something that is entered into lightly, particularly by dedicated public physicians. Unfortunately, county management is leaving us with no choice,” said VPG chairman Dr. Stephen J. Harris.

The vote was 93 percent in favor of authorizing a strike, with 92 percent of eligible voting members participating.

A report from VPG in August showed that mental health resources offered included, “superficial self-help tips and the phone numbers of mental health facilities that often have limited access.”

VPG released survey results October 3 that showed 90 percent of physicians who responded feel that county management does not provide sufficient resources and staffing. When asked about changes county management can make to improve physician morale and job satisfaction, physicians said that increasing support staff levels, adjusting job conditions for a more reasonable work/life balance and increasing physician staffing numbers would make a difference.

“These survey results clearly show something needs to change, and fast. We cannot keep subjecting our physicians to subpar working conditions and expect them to provide the highest quality of care to their patients,” Harris said in a news release when the survey results were published. “We heard from physicians in the survey, they are ‘dismayed,’ ‘feel demoralized,’ ‘gaslighted’ and ‘being taken advantage of by the county,’” Harris said.

VPG physicians have worked without a contract for nearly two years. The strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur, but that the bargaining committee negotiating the contract has union support to initiate a strike if they feel it becomes necessary to move the bargaining process forward.

The County released a statement to MedCity News saying, “We continue to negotiate with our VPG-represented staff and hope to reach an agreement.

Photo: Irina Devaeva, Getty Images