A Victory for Highland Hospital Patients and Resident Physicians

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Tricia Piper-Bennett
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patricia@telegraphpr.com

A Victory for Highland Hospital Patients and Resident Physicians
Following August’s Unity Break, Highland Hospital’s Housestaff prevailed in Thursday’s negotiations

Oakland, CA—After a contentious ten-month bargaining process with Highland Hospital and Alameda Health System, CIR-represented interns and residents successfully renewed their labor contract late Thursday night. The deadlock emanated from residents’ refusal of AHS proposals to cut the Patient Care Fund and add restrictive procedures for DEA license reimbursement.

Dr Amelia Breyre, 4th-year Emergency Resident at Highland asserted, “We settled our contract knowing that Alameda Health System faces a financial crisis. We have made tremendous concessions, and prioritized patient safety. We changed our maternity leave, reduced the amount of time for professional conferences and increased the amount we pay for health insurance. However, we’ve maintained the Patient Care Fund, a fund dedicated to purchase important equipment, and medications for patients.”

For the last five years, Oakland’s patients have benefitted from Highland’s Patient Care Fund- a $70,000 reserve earmarked for resident driven projects focused on improving the patient experience. A more notable recent investment, the iSTAT machine, has dramatically cut emergency room lab test result times, giving doctors and patients immediate results for real-time lifesaving outcomes.

Equally important for patient care, residents’ ability to prescribe critical medications, particularly those used to treat severe pain, cancer and opioid use disorders, is fundamental to their practice. Though DEA licenses were traditionally reimbursed by AHS, proposed administrative changes to apply for and obtain reimbursement for these licenses would have negatively impacted patient care.

On August 28th, 75 interns and resident physicians participated in a unity break held outside of Highland Hospital’s emergency department to express concern and solidarity. The unity break provided much needed support before continuing negotiations on Thursday.

Coming out of Thursday’s bargaining, Highland’s Housestaff reached a tentative contract agreement with AHS. Interns and residents additionally procured 7-months maternity benefits (through disability programs), wage increases retroactive to December 1, 2018, and continued access to free resident healthcare although with paid premiums for dependent care beginning in 2021.

CIR interns and residents at Highland must now vote on the updated contract, requiring a 50% + 1 result to be approved. The new tentative contract captures the Housestaff’s principal focus on patient care as well as the value that interns and residents contribute to Highland Hospital and the Oakland community.

The contract at Highland Hospital, in addition to UCSF, UCSF Children’s Hospital and UCLA, marks the 4th successful bargaining session CIR has fostered for interns and residents in California this year.

The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 16,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.

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The Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU, a local of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), represents more than 17,000 interns, residents, and fellows in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, D.C.

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