OAKLAND – Hundreds of union workers at UCSF Benioff Oakland Children’s Hospital are expected to demonstrate throughout the day on Wednesday to protest what they say is an erosion of services at the hospital amid a projected $200 million budget shortfall at UCSF Health.
About 1,200 workers at the hospital and its satellite clinics are represented by the National Union of Health Workers, which organized Wednesday’s demonstration that began around 11 am.
One department’s staff is half what it used to be since the University of California San Francisco became affiliated with Children’s Hospital Oakland in 2014, said a marriage family therapist demonstrating Wednesday.
Jackie Schalit, a 20-year veteran at the hospital who works in the early intervention services department, said the department was 40 staffed and down to 19.
“We’re here because we’re concerned that UCSF isn’t taking the needs of the community into account,” Schalit said. “And we want high-quality physical and mental health care here in the East Bay.”
Workers are really concerned about children, the most vulnerable members of the community, she said.
Workers have also been without a contract since July. A sticking point in the talks is a requirement for workers to give nine months’ notice before the hospital cuts jobs or medical services in the East Bay, according to a union newsletter. UCSF rejected that demand, union officials said.
“I work here because I love the kids,” said 30-year veteran Jackqueline Patrick, a patient care assistant. “I like to serve.”
One of Patrick’s concerns is how the hospital feels right now. She said it now feels like a corporation and not a family.
Union officials said doctors and other caregivers also repeatedly raised flags about UCSF’s reduced East Bay care. A 2018 letter signed by physicians criticized UCSF for concentrating specialist care at its hospital in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood.
This makes it more challenging for East Bay families, who must travel to the city for help and deal with financial and logistical issues.
Heart surgeries in Oakland have dropped four times since the Mission Bay campus opened, according to the union. Long waiting lists have developed for mental health care, audiology and occupational therapy, union members said.
“We are disappointed that the union has decided to be distracted from our ongoing negotiations while we are still negotiating in good faith,” UCSF Benioff Oakland Children’s Hospital officials said through spokeswoman Lorna Fernandes. “We look forward to reaching a fair agreement that recognizes the great work of our employees while maintaining our commitment to serving our community responsibly.”