OAKLAND, Calif., Feb. 26 Dr. Stuart A. Bussey, President of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), praised Judge Frank Roesch's decision on Thursday to grant back pay for time lost to furloughs to doctors who are paid from sources other than the State's general fund. "He looked at the facts we presented and he made the right decision," stated Dr. Bussey. Dr. Bussey criticized the decision to furlough those doctors in the first place: "It never made any sense for the Governor to furlough workers who are paid from federal funds, or from special funds, or from licensing fees, because that money couldn't be used as savings for the State. Those furloughs hurt workers and their families without improving the State's budget situation one bit. It was illogical, and it did real harm to the local economies where these people live and work."
Judge Roesch's decision, while positive, does not reverse all the damage done by Schwarzenegger's order, as it leaves furloughs in place for the large number of doctors paid out of the State's general fund. UAPD asserts that leaving furloughs in place for these general fund doctors will cost the state more money than it saves. "The need for a doctor's care doesn't go away just because there's a furlough. There are still patients to see, and some of them are very ill and cannot wait for care. It makes no sense to furlough a state-employed doctor then have the patients seen by an outside contractor who charges much, much more," states Dr. Bussey. He points to the large number of outside contractors working for State agency, some earning more than $500 per hour, as a longstanding problem that worsened with the implantation of furloughs. "If the Governor is serious about economic recovery, he needs to end ALL the furloughs immediately," according to Dr. Bussey.
This latest ruling comes out of a lawsuit filed last year by UAPD, which challenged furloughs as beyond the Governor's authority with respect to agencies funded by federal funds and special funds, including licensing fees. In its original motion, UAPD listed the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), and Medical Board of California as examples of agencies where a substantial portion of funding comes from federal or special funds. On the final day of 2009 Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch issued rulings in favor of UAPD, ordering the state to end furloughs for doctors in the above-mentioned agencies. Yesterday's ruling was the first time Judge Roesch indicated that these employees are also entitled to backpay for time lost to furloughs.
The Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which represents more than 2000 state-employed doctors, has been in bargaining with the State since 2008. UAPD has made a number of cost-saving proposals, including ones that would improve recruitment and retention of civil service doctors and lessen the State's reliance on high cost contractors. "The doctors we represent, who do the work every day, know how to provide quality care at the lowest cost," says Dr. Bussey. "We just need the State to listen."
SOURCE Union of American Physicians and Dentists