Members of the Valley Physicians Group , a labor union representing more than 450 doctors in Santa Clara County’s public health and hospital system, has voted overwhelmingly to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if the county “continues to negotiate in bad faith.”
A union statement said the key issue in the contract dispute is over “working conditions that impact patient care and physician mental health.”
The vote was 93 percent in favor of authorizing a strike, with 92 percent of eligible voting members participating, according to union statement today.
“Voting members did so with the understanding that VPG and county management already agreed to a salary structure for their next contract, leaving only working condition issues that impact patient care and physician mental health to be resolved,” according to the physicians’ union.
“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. “Physicians are doing everything we can to resolve working conditions issues that have a serious impact on patient care and physician mental health. We have highlighted these issues for years but management is still unwilling to partner with us to support high quality public health in Santa Clara County.”
The strike authorization vote comes on the heels 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 what they are overbooked appointments, long wait times for specialty referrals, substandard diagnostic equipment, chronic short staffing and high turnover.
County Executive Jeff Smith recently said of the County Health and Hospital System: “There’s no problem with quality. There’s no problem with retention. There’s no problem with recruitment.”
VPG is currently in negotiations with county management on a new contract, and have worked without a contract for nearly two years. The union said details on a potential strike are still undetermined, but that a strike could come as soon as early November.