Workers slam UC medical centers for prioritizing profit

Nearly 15,000 technical workers at the University of California Patient Care Center are blasting the management of UC's five medical centers and bemoaning the hits they've taken due to cost cutting strategies on both patient care and front-line providers, according to a whistleblower report released today.

The workers are accusing management of inadequate and uneven staffing levels that have lead to patient neglect and harm. They report a range of problems, including unsanitary facilities, Department of Public Health investigations dealing with hospital-acquired infections, the "human cost" of understaffing and reports of priority treatment for VIP patients, according to an announcement from the UC employees' union (AFSCME 3299).

In the report, the union calls for greater state oversight of the UC health system, along with specific recommendations for better patient care.

"Both on the hospital floor and at the bargaining table, we've repeatedly asked UC to stop cutting corners at its Medical Centers," AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in the announcement. "This report is about something much bigger than our members' livelihoods. It's about whether the UC is prioritizing quality care for the millions of Californians who put their lives in our hands."

The executive summary of the report points out that the UC Medical System annually earns about $6.9 billion in operating revenues and hundreds of millions in profits, so it should have the resources to do what the workers claim it's not doing: providing the highest level of care. The union said it has witnessed the administration's decision to prioritize UC's profit margins over patient health.

"This culture change is evidenced by a sharp rise in management salaries and compensation, excessive management costs, and unprecedented borrowing to construct new buildings," the summary states.

The summary goes on to list about 26 independent reports and inpatient discharge data that question the quality of care at UC medical centers. Two of the most egregious include: Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center received an "F" for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group last November; and the California Department of Public Health uncovered "a systemic breakdown" of internal controls that contributed to two UC Davis Medical Center physicians performing experimental procedures for brain cancer patients.

UC Irvine Medical Center maintains the union's report relied on "selective information and anecdotal evidence," spokesman John Murray told the Orange County Register.

"The training we require of the temporary registry workers is the same standards we expect of our regular staff. If we see a registry worker not doing a proper job, then we put them on a do-not-call list," he told the newspaper.

Murray also said the allegation of VIP treatment was false and that every patient receives the same level of care.

To learn more:
- read the announcement about the whistleblower report
- read the executive summary and full text of the report
- read the Orange County Register article