Strike Impacts Medical Services at UCSF

Medical Center Works to Ensure Safe Care for Most Critically Ill

UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, which treat some of the most critically ill patients, has prepared for the two-day strike by working to reduce the number of patients in the hospitals by half.

In anticipation of the strike announced by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for Tuesday and Wednesday, the medical center has cancelled or rescheduled surgeries, procedures and treatments, and reduced transfers from outside hospitals.

The patient care technical workers are joined today by AFSCME’s service workers who are striking in sympathy. In addition, the University Professional and Technical Employees, which represent UC health care professionals asked its members to strike today. As many as 400 people were picketing at the UCSF Parnassus campus on Tuesday.

“Patients already are feeling the impact of an anticipated strike,” said Josh Adler, MD, chief medical officer of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “Each patient’s doctor is reviewing his or her condition to determine who can wait or whose illness necessitates care during this period. It certainly is not ideal, but we need to make arrangements to ensure safe care for our sickest patients.”

UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital deliver high-quality, specialty care that is unavailable in many community hospitals and are major referral centers for Northern California hospitals that have critically ill patients, or patients for whom assistance is needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

To date, there have been 30 patients who needed UCSF-level care and cannot access it because the medical center is not accepting transfers. At this rate, there will be an additional 70 patients who cannot be transferred by the end of the two-day strike.

The UCSF emergency department has remained open, although ambulances are being diverted to other hospitals throughout the day.

Following are additional examples of steps taken to reduce the number of patients at UCSF hospitals over the next two days:

  • Nearly 150 surgeries, many of them non-elective, have been postponed. This includes five surgeries for children with complex heart conditions and appointments for two women who need operations by fetal treatment center surgeons.
  • About 100 patients will not receive procedures, such as chemotherapy for solid tumors and bone marrow transplants, over the two days.
  • Typically, 100 cancer patients receive radiation therapy daily at UCSF. Half of those appointments have been cancelled.
  • Appointments for 12 children who need chemotherapy infusions, for cancers such as leukemia and retinoblastoma, have been delayed.
  • Over the two-day strike, the intensive care nursery cannot accept children who may need to be put on a heart lung bypass machine – ECMO – a technology that keeps a critically ill child's heart and lungs working until surgery.
  • UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital is one of only five Pediatric Clinical Research Centers in the country who offer children treatment in clinical trials who otherwise have no other options. Two such cases have been delayed.
  • Hospital admissions of 16 adult cancer patients have been delayed. Half of them are patients preparing for a stem cell transplant.

The medical center also has closed outpatient laboratory and radiology services to focus the limited workforce on our most critically ill inpatients. The turnaround time for laboratory and radiology testing for inpatients will be increased during the two-day strike. The blood bank turnaround time will be slow, but the full range of blood products will be available.

“Our singular focus is ensuring the safety and quality of care delivered to our patients during this strike,” Adler said.