Negotiations for new labor contract underway; unresolved dispute could leave doctors out of job

Jason Oliveira Image
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Labor contract dispute could leave some doctors at Saint Agnes out of job
EMBED <>More Videos

Labor contract dispute could leave some doctors at Saint Agnes out of job

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Patient care at Saint Agnes Medical Center continues as normal, but according to some doctors that could soon change.

That's because the hospital has yet to reach an agreement on a new labor contract with Vituity, the independent physicians group that represents the 50 or so internal medicine and ICU doctors that work at Saint Agnes.

"Right now the question for us is in doubt," said Dr. Eleazar Lawson.

When you go to Saint Agnes you assume your doctor works directly for the hospital, but in reality the state requires doctors to operate under an independent group contracted to the medical center.

The two sides have until the last day of February to come up with an agreement.

Dr. Lawson is a general surgeon hired by Saint Agnes Medical Providers and under a separate contract. He's not a part of the current negotiation group.

He tells Action News he has real concerns if the current labor deal expires and leaves some of his colleagues scrambling for other jobs come March 1.

"We're waiting with baited breath to find out what happens. It's very scary and I'm not sure what I'm going to do for my patients or what I'm going to tell them," he said.

Officials with Saint Agnes Medical Center insist, despite the on going negotiations, patients will not see any interruption with their medical care

"I want to be very clear with this as far as our patients are concerned there is no reason to believe there would be any break in service or any compromise in our ability to deliver patient care," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eugene Egerton.

Action News has learned the two sides continue to talk but appear to be far apart on a new agreement

"Having a lot of respect for all the parties involved, and recognizing there are a number of issues, just hoping to see prompt resolution so that I can reassure my patients that I'm going to have a place to take care of them in a few weeks," Dr. Lawson said.

This is process has many in the health care community paying close attention.

Saint Agnes Medical Center and Vituity Health commented further about patient care, when their partnership ends next month.

David Birdsall, MD, Chief Operating Officer at Vituity and W. Eugene Egerton, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Saint Agnes Medical Center issued the following joint statement:

Saint Agnes Medical Center and Vituity are actively working together to ensure the best possible care and outcomes for the community they collectively serve. Patients can be assured that there will be no disruption of service-physicians will be there to care for them tomorrow just as they are today.
Saint Agnes currently contracts with Vituity, a physician-led and owned organization that provides acute care services to patients and hospitals across the country. These contracts are a standard part of hospital operations. While Saint Agnes and Vituity are not renewing their partnership for inpatient services, they continue to partner for other physician services, and are fully committed to delivering the highest standard of patient care. No physicians are being asked to leave Saint Agnes and physicians associated with Vituity will remain members of the Saint Agnes medical staff.