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AB 722 Safeguards Jobs of Unionized Physicians

Post Staff Reporting, Alameda Post

bill introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland), AB 722, aimed at safeguarding the cost-effectiveness of healthcare services provided by the Alameda Health System (AHS) and protecting the jobs of unionized physicians was signed into law in the evening of Saturday, September 30.

“In 2013, when Alameda Health Care Systems acquired San Leandro hospital—and in response to fears raised by many of the physicians and surgeons that their jobs would be contracted out—this legislature required AHS to provide clear and convincing evidence that contracting out would be more cost-efficient. That requirement is set to expire at the start of this year,” Bonta explained. AB 722 extends the sunset date from January 1, 2024, to January 1, 2035. The unions representing these health care workers and AHS worked with Assemblymember Bonta on this sunset extension.

AHS is governed by a board of trustees appointed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and employs about 5,000 people, including 700 physicians across the several hospitals, wellness centers, and other health facilities it operates throughout Alameda County. Major components of the countywide system include:

  • Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus, a major regional trauma center and teaching hospital with 236 beds.
  • Fairmont Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, which treats severe stroke, brain injuries, and multiple traumas.
  • Alameda Hospital, an emergency, impatient, and outpatient hospital.
  • John George Psychiatric Hospital, an acute and psychiatric emergency care facility.

“It is consequential that we continue to protect public service employees and prevent temporary contractors from providing short-term services to patients who require long-term dedication and care,” said Alia Griffing, Political and Legislative Director with AFSCME California, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “We applaud Assemblymember Bonta for her commitment in working to protect the jobs of physicians and surgeons who have contracts with the Alameda Health System.”

Assemblymember Liz Ortega, a co-author of this bill whose district is also served by AHS, added, “As a lifelong labor leader, I recognize the importance of AB 722. Without this bill, we risk leaving room for decisions that may not align with the best interest of employees or the community.”

Milton Lorig, a former physician, AHS member, and member of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), a co-sponsor of AB 722, said, “Privatization, or subcontracting of public services, can be a deceptive practice. In healthcare settings, over reliance on subcontracting can result in a gradual decline of quality of care. This is why we are so thankful to Assemblymember Bonta for her steadfast commitment to protecting our jobs. We also appreciate the legislature for their support and Governor Newsom for signing this important bill.”

Upon learning her bill had been signed into law, Bonta concluded, “It is imperative that we maintain a rigorous standard when it comes to outsourcing services, especially those provided by union members. AB 722 is a testament to our commitment to accountability in delivering cost-effective healthcare services that prioritize the well-being of our employees and the community we serve.”

AB 722 goes into effect January 1, 2024.