California physicians authorize strike

Members of a union representing more than 450 physicians in Santa Clara (Calif.) County's public health and hospital system have voted to authorize a strike, according to a statement shared with Becker's.

Valley Physicians Group reported that 93 percent of the votes showed support for calling a strike, with 92 percent of eligible voting members participating.

Union members contend that county management is negotiating in bad faith on working conditions that affect patient care and physician mental health.

"A strike is always a last resort and never something that is entered into lightly, particularly by dedicated public physicians. Unfortunately, county management is leaving us with no choice,'' Valley Physicians Group chair Stephen Harris, MD, said in a news release. "Physicians are doing everything we can to resolve working conditions issues that have a serious impact on patient care and physician mental health. We have highlighted these issues for years, but management is still unwilling to partner with us to support high quality public health in Santa Clara County."

The strike authorization vote comes after the union released survey findings Oct. 3 showing that 68 percent of surveyed members plan to leave county employment in the next three years. Physicians have also urged county leaders to improve working conditions and called for an adequate plan to address physician mental health and wellness. 

A strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will take place. However, it gives the union the option of calling one.

If a strike is scheduled, it could come as soon as early November, the union said. 

Becker's reached out to the county for a comment.

In August, the county provided the following statement to Becker's: "The matters that are being raised are the subject of contract negotiations with the physicians group. The quality of care provided to our patients is a priority for the county health system, and we will continue to work with our physicians and staff to this end. We are hopeful that we can reach agreement with the physicians and move forward together."

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