Update, Oct. 29:
The County of Santa Clara and the Valley Physician Group reached a tentative agreement Friday evening, Oct. 28, on a new contract, averting a physicians' strike, scheduled for Nov.1-4.
The tentative agreement will be presented for a vote of approval to the County Board of Supervisors and VPG’s membership.
Their joint statement:
"The parties look forward to focusing their efforts on the shared commitment to provide the highest quality care to the patients we serve. As we did during the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to deliver the excellent healthcare that all members of our community need and deserve. We are committed to working together to tackle a number of difficult challenges that all those who provide health care in this nation face, especially those who serve a safety net population."
With negotiations remaining stalled and at an impasse, Santa Clara County physicians are expected to begin a four-day strike at public health facilities on Tuesday, Nov.1..
Valley Physicians Group, the labor union representing more than 450 doctors in Santa Clara County’s public health and hospital system, said today the strike will begin at 8am on Nov.1 and continue through Friday, Nov. 4. Normal operations at Santa Clara County’s hospitals and clinics will resume at 8am on Saturday, Nov.5, the union said.
A strike would impact most non-emergency and outpatient services in Santa Clara County health and hospital facilities like Valley Medical Center.
The union has already agreed to a salary structure for their next contract. Only working condition issues, such as manageable workloads and increased staffing levels, that impact patient care and physician mental health, remain unresolved between physicians and management, according to a union statement.
The union said that demands from Santa Clara County physicians are “modest and reasonable, but would make huge improvements in patient care.”Physicians are asking for two fewer patients scheduled in a day in primary care and a more appropriate patient load. Physicians are also asking for more dedicated time to address the overwhelming paperwork and email correspondence to coordinate care for a medically complex patient community who are impacted by multiple social determinants of health.
Physicians contend that these changes would bring Santa Clara County closer in line with industry standards on patient care, though still with more patients per day than other comparable counties in California like San Francisco, Alameda and Los Angeles.
Picketing is to occur during the strike between 8am and 5pm at Valley Medical Center on 751 S Bascom Avenue. Healthcare workers represented by SEIU 521, nurses represented by the Registered Nurses Professional Association (RNPA), and interns and residents represented by SEIU CIR are expected to join picketing and strike activities and solidarity with physicians.
VPG is currently in negotiations with county management towards a new contract. VPG physicians have worked without a contract for nearly two years.
The union said 93 percent of its members voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if the county continues to negotiate in bad faith, with 92 percent of eligible voting members participating.
The 10-day strike notice comes after many months of county physicians urging county leaders to improve working conditions and calling out the county’s lack of commitment to physician mental health. County physicians have also documented issues around overbooked appointments, long wait times for specialty referrals, substandard diagnostic equipment, chronic short staffing and high turnover— all of which combine to hurt patient care and health outcomes.