Four members came to bargaining today to discuss the lack of parity between Physician Surgeons from the Department of State Hospitals and those doing the same work within the Department of Corrections. The presenters were Hossein Akhavan, MD (Atascadero), Dr. Ali Akhavan, M.D. (Napa), Dr. Teneese Nguyen (Metropolitan), and Dr. Stephanie Nguyen (Patton). UAPD followed the presentation with a proposal that DSH Physician and Surgeons receive a pay increase to bring them to 95% of what CDCR pays for the same position.
The doctors’ argument in favor of the increase was multi-pronged. For one, they explained how parity between CDCR and DSH is consistent with the intent of the Coleman Settlement. The physicians reminded the management team that in 2007 Judge Lawrence Karlton issued an Order related to the Coleman case saying that DSH clinicians would receive 95% of the salary that CDCR receives. DSH Physician and Surgeons were omitted from the classifications list in that Order; at the table, the DSH doctors clearly demonstrated that they are indeed front-line primary care clinicians, and should be included in the group. DSH Physician Surgeons treat hundreds of CDCR psychiatric patients that the Coleman case was intended to protect. In addition to providing their regular medical care, the DSH Physician Surgeons are an integral part of the psychiatric treatment team for the Coleman patients. Dr. Stephanie Nguyen described how commonly prescribed psychiatric medicines can have dangerous, even fatal, side effects that she and her colleagues identify and manage. Bargaining Team Member Mubashir Farooqi, M.D., a psychiatrist at Patton, emphasized the importance of these doctors in providing quality care, and that psychiatrists are in full support of the parity proposal.
Drs. Hossein and Ali Akhavan both described in detail the dangerous working conditions of DSH as another compelling reason that the doctors there deserve pay parity. For instance, without the assistance of corrections officers, DSH doctors are the front-line responders to agitated, assaultive patients after incidents of violence. UAPD provided the data on the high number of assaults on staff each month in the hospitals. Dr. Teneese Nguyen presented a variety of published reports, including one in which DSH managerment advocated for the same pay increase that UAPD requested.
UAPD President Dr. Stuart Bussey also presented in favor of the proposal, reminding everyone that UAPD has been urging the State to correct this problem for nearly a decade. He reported on UAPD’s campaign to educate legislators about the intent of Coleman, and to marshal their support for our proposal. UAPD Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Doug Chiappetta offered more details about the legislative meetings that UAPD and the DSH doctors have taken in recent months.
On the management side, CalHR Chief Negotiator Candace Murch argued that Physician Surgeons are covered by the Plata Case (which covered CDCR medical care) rather than the Coleman one (which covered psychiatric care in the prisons). UAPD responded that the CDCR patients treated by DSH Physician and Surgeons are the ones covered by Coleman, bringing all DSH doctors within the scope of the settlement. Ms. Murch also reminded the table that the State had once brought DSH Physician and Surgeons close to CDCR in salary, only to see them fall behind immediately when the Receiver gave another raise exclusively to CDCR physicians. UAPD believes a stable salary situation, with parity, can and should be reached at this time.
In addition to the work on DSH salary issues, UAPD requested information about the health benefits language of other unions, in order to assess whether there is room for improvement in our own. Management was able to respond to some of our questions and will clarify the rest next week.
Next week more doctors will come to the table to present Alternate Work Schedules (AWS) and timekeeping related problems. We will update you about those talks as well.