In a historic development for professional unions, Stuart Bussey, MD, JD, president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), stated on 15 October 2016 that the private practice physicians at Auburn Medical Center (AMC) in Tacoma, Washington, voted to join the UAPD -- the occasion is historic because it is the first time that the UAPD has formally organized a hospital medical staff outside of California. Although the UAPD has had non-California membership throughout its history, this effort marks the first successful organizational campaign outside of California. This step means that the UAPD and its AMC members can now negotiate legally with MultiCare which had opposed the formation of a doctors' union but which also indicated its intent to work with the physicians' elected union representative.
Local leadership was provided by Virginia Stowell, MD, general surgeon, whose concerns included winning more autonomy for physicians in the disposition of patient care, developing more clout in the negotiation of compensation and working conditions, and preventing the arbitrary outsourcing of professional work by hospital administration. Stowell's history includes having worked at MultiCare since 2012. Before that she was in private practice for 16 years. At the present time, MultiCare reviews physician compensation and makes its own decisions. From now on the UAPD will be enabled to participate in these decisions. In leading up to this historic vote, Stowell won two cases with NLRB that prevented MultiCare from foisting its will upon their physicians. In a nutshell, NLRB ruled that efforts by MultiCare to prevent its doctors from discussing wages and working conditions violated the National Labor Relations Act which protects this activity.
It was pointed out during the voting process that hospitals have many committees staffed by physicians but that in the final analysis such committees have minimal ability to oppose administrative decisions decided upon by management. Stowell and others, including Neil Partain, a hospitalist at AMC, agreed that it would be better for the physicians and their patients if the doctors had a union to represent their views before the hospital and MultiCare.
Representing the UAPD in this effort was Theodore Gashaw, Lead Organizer, 916-796-3124, firstname.lastname@example.org. Gashaw said that members of other systems have also called him although at this time MultiCare is where the UAPD has received the most interest.
Meanwhile in California, expanded interest in private practice organization is anticipated especially since Governor Brown signed AB 72 (Bonta) into law. This bill slashes "surprise billing" (see our previous editorial about "surprise billing" and AB 72, 6 October 2016) but leaves "network contraction" intact. Critics point out to what extent this legislation, under the guise of patient protection, actually promotes corporate compensation at the expense of patient care.