UCSF initiates layoffs in wake of whistle-blower report

Michael Tao/Staff
UCSF Medical Center, pictured above, began cutting 300 jobs last week in the wake of a recent whistleblower report alleging chronic understaffing at UC medical centers.

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UCSF Medical Center began the process of cutting 300 jobs last week through a combination of layoffs, transfers and elimination of currently unfilled positions.

The controversial workforce reductions come in the wake of a recent whistle-blower report alleging that chronic understaffing at UC medical centers has undermined patient safety.

The report, “A Question of Priorities: Profits, Short Staffing and the Shortchanging of Patient Care at UC Medical Centers,” was commissioned by AFSCME Local 3299, a union representing UC workers. The report includes findings of patient-care deficiencies at UCSF ranging from hospital-acquired bed sores to an “immediate jeopardy” incident in which a patient received the wrong medication.

“No one can read that report and not be deeply troubled,” said Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299. “To put out a report like this and see UCSF go through with what we see as the problem is just shocking. I think it points to their priorities — layoffs don’t benefit patients.”

Officials said the layoffs are necessary to prepare for the onset of health care reform and other challenges. UCSF is working to build a new $1.5 billion hospital campus at Mission Bay.

“As national healthcare leaders, (the medical centers) must strategically invest our dollars to improve care, grow our market share, plan for reduced payment increases and lower our total costs overall,” said Mark Laret, UCSF Medical Center CEO, in a memo to employees regarding the workforce reduction.

AFSCME 3299 is filing an unfair labor practices complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board on the grounds that UCSF Medical Center failed to comply with its legal obligation to confer in good faith with the union about the workforce reductions.

“The day I was laid off was my eighth straight day of work with no breaks,” said Celina Andrade, a UCSF pharmacy technician and single mother of two who received a layoff notice last week, in a statement to AFSCME. “I know how desperately understaffed the pharmacy at UCSF is from first-hand experience.”

The AFSCME report stated that possible resolutions to problems with patient care include legislative hearings on management efficiencies, investigations of UC staffing practices and a reconsideration of the university’s constitutional status, which grants the system autonomy from basic employment standards in the state labor code and local ordinances.

California State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, said state legislators will look into allegations of mismanagement at UC medical centers.

“I am always concerned when I read about problems in a healthcare facility in California,” Hernandez said in a statement. “But to read about these issues at the University of California medical system is especially troubling because we expect more from a taxpayer-supported institution that is training our future healthcare workforce.”

Contact Mia Shaw at [email protected].