The $1.27 million sale agreement includes the purchase of clinics in San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Although the hope was that the court would finalize the agreement on Tuesday, March 19, it granted an extension to March 27 for additional review.
SVMD officials say the decision is good news, and allows five clinics that could have closed to continue serving thousands of patients. SVMD President Bruce Harrison said in a statement March 27 that his organization was prepared to partner with San Jose Medical Group physicians for a successful launch on April 1.
"We are so pleased that all the elements necessary have aligned to put patient care first," Harrison said. "San Jose Medical Group physicians serve an important community need, and we are honored to work with them to quickly open and make this transition as seamless as possible for their patients."
The extension made a seamless transition on Monday difficult. By getting approval later than anticipated, SVMD officials admitted that they had a "shortened time frame" of just five days to the clinics' Monday opening. The finalized agreement meant El Camino's affiliate needed to move fast with a combination of "direct employment and contracted agencies," according to the March 27 statement.
El Camino unveiled its clinic purchase plans in February, which offered to buy the assets of the clinics but excluded the transfer of 164 existing clinic employees. Union members working in the clinics have urged El Camino Hospital's board of directors to reconsider, arguing the patients and clinic staff alike need continuity during the transition. Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) members have slammed SVMD and the board for being opaque about their plans — board members never said explicitly that they would or would not rehire the employees — and several local elected officials have sent letters on behalf of SEIU-UHW employees.
The lack of response from the board prompted union members to file a ballot initiative that would make El Camino Hospital seek voter approval to purchase the clinics. The measure was filed with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on Monday, March 18, and would come before voters residing in the El Camino Healthcare District on the November 2020 ballot.
Many of the 164 employees have reapplied for the same jobs, through both phone and in-person interviews, but as of March 28, only 16 had been told they are going to keep their jobs, said Sean Wherley, a spokesman for SEIU-UHW. Some employees have already been asked to turn in their keys because March 27 was their last day on the job, he said.
In the lead-up to Monday, temp agencies offered short 30- or 60-day contracts to about 80 percent of the clinic staff, while other positions like housekeeping were outright eliminated, Wherley said. Some of the old employee staff members had their temporary employment offer rescinded on Sunday night, while others showed up on Monday only to find out their job had been eliminated.
Wherley said he wasn't aware of any major problems at any of the five clinics as a result of staffing shortages, but nevertheless felt the transition was poorly handled.
"To handle it well would've been to retain all the workers who were in those positions, in their same job, performing at the same high level that they have been," he said. "They have undermined the workforce by classifying them as temporary employees, and that will have an affect on the delivery of care."
Representatives from SVMD said last week they would not be available for an interview for weeks, but provided a statement saying that they were working "quickly" to successfully open the clinics on Monday and expect a seamless transition.
"All appointments currently scheduled will be honored and new appointments can be scheduled by calling the same phone numbers as before," Harrison said shortly before the April 1 opening. "We look forward to welcoming patients to San Jose Medical Group, affiliated with Silicon Valley Medical Development."
A spokeswoman for SVMD told the Voice Wednesday that all five clinics had a smooth opening this week, and that all the patients with scheduled appointments were seen and treated that day.
The clinic purchase is a big move for El Camino Hospital, which has expanded its presence into the South Bay for years. The hospital has been operating a second campus in Los Gatos for nearly a decade, and more recently opened multiple clinics in San Jose. The latest purchase now includes five new locations run by the hospital through SVMD. The clinics are located at 625 Lincoln Ave., San Jose; 2585 Samaritan Drive, San Jose; 18550 DePaul Drive, Morgan Hill; 9360 No Name Uno, #125, Gilroy; and 227 North Jackson Ave., San Jose.
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