Threatened Strike Could Affect Health Services
June 26, 2006
Contra Costa County health officials warn that a threatened one-day strike by labor unions tomorrow could cause delays, disruptions and even cancellations for patients and others using their services.
Contra Costa Health Services Director William Walker, M.D. says his department is working to ensure that all critically needed operations are covered by managers, staff not represented by the unions, and workers the court has designated as "essential." The department includes the 166-bed Regional Medical Center, 10 Health Centers, the Contra Costa Health Plan, Public Health, Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs programs as well as Hazardous Materials, Environmental Health and Emergency Medical Services, which oversees ambulance response throughout the county. In all, Health Services has 3,500 employees but not all of them are represented by the unions threatening the job action.
"This is a major challenge. We will be open. We will be caring for patients at the Regional Medical Center, seeing patients at our Health Centers, staffing our emergency room, responding to hazardous materials incidents and providing mental health and alcohol and drug treatment services. But we know that for this one day, there will be delays and other inconveniences. Since we don't know how many employees will actually come to work, planning is very difficult," Walker said.
He also pointed out that patients and others who come to programs throughout the county may face picket lines and long waits for services.
To maintain as many services as possible, some staff that report will be reassigned to help out at the Medical Center, Health Centers and other key areas. The Regional Medical Center plans to keep its emergency services opened but is prepared to divert ambulances to other nearby emergency departments if necessary. Fewer appointments have been scheduled at the Health Centers and some patients have already been discharged or transferred to other hospitals.
"We know that the community will be inconvenienced. We are working to ensure that life-critical services can continue. That will mean other operations may be cut way back for the day. We hope the public will understand," said Walker. "Our goal for the day is to be sure no one who needs care is turned away."
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