Op-Ed: Proposed constitutional amendment would put public health and safety at risk

On August 20, 2019, CalMatters published an op-ed from Dr. J. Douglas Kirk, chief medical officer for UC Davis Health, and California Coalition for Public Higher Education Co-Chair Mel Levine, titled, “Proposed constitutional amendment would put public health and safety at risk.” Here’s an excerpt:

The University of California has joined with the California Coalition for Public Higher Education to oppose Assembly Constitutional Amendment 14. This costly and crippling constitutional amendment would prohibit UC from entering into contracts for these contingency workers who provide a wide array of support and clinical services.

Public employee unions are championing ACA 14, and both of us have worked collaboratively with labor. But when a constitutional change is proposed that could put the public’s health and safety at risk, we need to speak out.

UC hospitals treat higher percentages of very sick patients than other California hospitals. With five nationally ranked academic medical centers and 18 health professional schools, UC Health trains nearly half of all of California’s medical students and medical residents. UC medical centers are public safety net hospitals that must keep their doors open to all patients.

But the restrictions established by ACA 14 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, San Diego Democrat, would prevent UC hospitals from being able to obtain the trained staff they need on short notice to serve these patients–many of whom require highly complex care.

This flexibility is critical to manage unforeseen changes in hospital census, patient acuity, employee absenteeism and unanticipated increases in patient volumes arriving to our emergency departments as a result of multi-casualty trauma incidents or other environmental factors.

A staffing shortage in any area of the hospital can quickly cascade into others. For instance, a housekeeping shortage means hospital rooms aren’t clean and ready for incoming patients. Those patients take up beds in the emergency department while they wait, and that can lead to further overcrowding, delays in treatment and poor patient outcomes.

The op-ed concludes:

ACA 14 is scheduled for a Senate committee vote on Aug. 20, which could send it to the full Senate for a vote to place it on the statewide ballot. We urge legislators to say no to this costly and crippling measure.

Read the complete op-ed on the CalMatters website.