As a public health care system, Alameda Health System is a critical component in the safety-net that serves hardworking, low-income families and vulnerable populations and provides unique critical services, like trauma care, to the broader community in Alameda County.
In order to maintain its essential mission of caring, healing, teaching and serving all, AHS must be diligent and deliberate stewards of the vital, yet limited, financial resources to which it is entrusted by residents and taxpayers.
The challenges facing health care hail from far and near. Uncertainty regarding reimbursements and the future of the Affordable Care Act and the increase in residents of this county relying upon social assistance to meet their basic needs, such as health care, housing and food, all of which impact the total health of those we serve, forces AHS to continuously address disparities in all areas, including its operations and finances that jeopardize its sustainability.
This is an ongoing process. Over the past few years AHS has renegotiated health plan contracts that were insufficient or below market. The system has initiated new bulk purchasing services to increase economies of scale and reduce expenses. Providers, managers and staff have worked together to reduce costs in large and small ways to help the organization meet its budget targets to enable investment in maintenance, capital expenditures and implementation of a system-wide electronic health record.
We must extend the same stewardship to our largest expense and most valuable asset … our people. AHS’s top priority is delivering quality care. To do so AHS must be able to attract and support talented employees who believe in its mission and vision. That means that wages must be competitive and sustainable.
As AHS has added facilities, additional complexities and challenges were introduced, including the challenge of containing costs and financial expenditures. Over the course of time, this has caused financial stress and we must work to align ourselves with the philosophy of good stewardship and fiscal responsibility.
AHS and various unions (CNA, ILWU, BCTC, and CIR) are negotiating new labor agreements. AHS has and continues to provide competitive benefits and compensation packages to all its employees. A key issue in current negotiations is cost containment. Operational inefficiencies, above-market wages, and expensive premiums threaten the well-being of AHS and its ability to serve our community. AHS is committed to its represented workforce and to providing competitive pay for all. However, as a safety net, public hospital, AHS must balance its responsibilities to staff, the community, and taxpayers.
The current contracts also include many provisions that are unclear, create employee dissatisfaction and pose significant barriers to operations. The options presented to CNA, ILWU, CIR, and BCTC are designed to position AHS to provide care for the future and meet changing expectations that health systems deliver high quality, value-based care, improve the patient experience and become more efficient.