Medical Center Jobs on the Line

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday July 04, 2006

Out of the 124 workers projected to be eliminated at the Alameda County Medical Center in the $419 million budget approved this week by trustees, Service Employees International Union Local 616 representative Brad Cleveland estimates that some 90 positions belong to SEIU bargaining units  

Those 90 positions are divided between 616, which represents 1,300 registered nurses, hospital clerical staff, and allied health care professionals at the medical center, and the United Health Care Workers. 

Calling it the easiest budget deliberations in years, elated trustees unanimously accepted a budget submitted by ACMC CEO Wright Lassiter that included a $3.8 million operating deficit but did not include $8 million in set-aside monies earlier approved by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors at the request of Supervisors Board President Keith Carson. 

Lassiter said that the $8 million set-aside money was specifically not intended to close the medical center’s budget gap, and was set up on a request-as-you-go basis for which request guidelines had not yet been established. 

Lassiter’s $3.8 million submitted deficit had been whittled down by a million dollars from the $4.8 million deficit he had been predicting only a week ago. 

Lassiter told trustees the deficit reduction had come from one million dollars in “non-labor expenses,” which had been identified by center management officials and taken out of the budget. 

Writing in his budget message, “I am confident … that ACMC can achieve break-even or better operating performance during the upcoming fiscal year,” Lassiter included between $3.1 million and $5.9 million in projected supplemental revenue or cost savings that could bring the budget into balance by the end of the year.  

Among those projected dollars are between $1 million and $2 million extra in Measure A tax revenue (Measure A revenue has been consistently running above expectations), and the elimination of $400,000 in the operating loss coming from the medical center’s clinic at the Alameda County Juvenile Detention Center. 

Lassiter has said that if the medical center cannot renegotiate its contract with Alameda County so that the center is fully paid for the cost of its operation of the detention center clinic, the medical center will cease operation of the clinic in January. 

“So one way or the other,” Lassiter said, “the operating loss will be eliminated.” 

Because the medical center, by state law, could not approve an unbalanced budget, on the motion of trustee board finance chair Stanley M. Schiffman trustees made up the $3.8 million deficit on paper by eliminating the $400,000 projected detention center clinic loss and adding $1.7 million in revenue apiece from Measure A funds and additional MediCal supplemental revenue. 

Lassiter said that because the Measure A and MediCal money was not under the medical center’s control, he would monitor its collection “on a month-to-month basis” and report back to the board if further budget adjustments are needed.