2020: A Year to Remember… And Forget

Stuart A. Bussey, MD, JD |

2020 was supposed to be a year of clear vision. But for most of us, it was a year of fear and anxiety. Our overheated environment produced record fires, hurricanes, and a once in a century pandemic. Society devolved into racial unrest, division, and economic paralysis. Governments tried to respond as best they could, but there was confusion everywhere.

At the beginning of the year, UAPD had hoped to provide its members with healthy raises and better working conditions. But as COVID-19 advanced, states, counties, and private employers asked more from our members without corresponding compensation. Being dedicated to their patients, our members responded selflessly to the COVID-19 health menace.

As the year progressed, our members demanded to have a stronger voice in health decisions affecting their patients, especially concerning public health decisions. Our dentists and doctors from Chino and San Quentin’s prisons spoke out in the media about the Ill-advised transfer of COVID-19 patients between their institutions. The doctors in San Quentin, especially, decried the overcrowding of California prisons. Their voices helped to accelerate the exodus of 21,000 inmates that were released this year from CDCR. Our Los Angeles County doctors and pharmacists stepped up to care for the thousands of COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed their ERs and ICUs. These heroes rightly demanded proper and safe PPE and better testing and vaccine protocols.

In Washington State, our Indigo urgent care doctors staged a two-day strike over unsafe working conditions, grueling scheduling, and inadequate PPE. Media across the country took note. The employer backed down and changed its protocols. The Washington doctors and providers are resolved on breaking the corporate stranglehold and creating a more organic relationship between them and their patients.

This month our Stockton prison psychiatrists wrote a letter to Coleman Federal Judge Mueller demanding that psychiatrists remain on the ground instead of being on call with a pager. This is the safer course and CDCR backed down. The above protests reflect the conflicts occurring on a larger scale in our society— the dismissal of scientific voices by bureaucrats and politicians.

UAPD will carry this fight into the emerging decade. Next month, our Contracting Out Committee will finish a joint report with the state with recommendations for improving recruitment and retention and reducing dependence on costly contractors. This report will be available to state legislative budget committees starting February 1st. Meanwhile, our CDCR members are mobilizing against the inefficiencies and poor implementation of suboxone in the MAT (medication-assisted treatment) program. Our newly organized physicians in Ventura County are negotiating to have a stronger voice in an integrated public-private health system. These employer partnerships pose confusion of authority to our rank-and-file members.

We have a new US president, and with him, more social and public health-oriented policies. UAPD and its members will continue to honor its mission of service to their communities and the doctors and other medical providers who serve them. Thank you all for your support, your dedication, and the important work that you do. Happy 2021 to you and your families from UAPD!

In solidarity,

Stuart Bussey, MD, JD UAPD President