June 1998 Bulletin

Physicians win ‘voice’ in management

Rockford group defers petition to NLRB to be bargaining agent

The Rockford Physicians Council (RPC) has successfully won increased physician representation in the management decisions of the Rockford Health System (RHS). Thee RPC deferred its petition to the National Labor Relations Board to certify RPC as the negotiating agent of the employed physicians at the Rockford, Ill. Health care system.

In response to RPC's physician-led collective bargaining campaign, RHS agreed to increase physician representation on its Board of Directors and to create a physician-held chief operating officer position. RHS also agreed to require hospital administrators to report to physician department heads, to give physicians the right to approve the election of department heads and to create an advisory System Council and an Operations Council that include physicians.

The RPC's action was supported by the American Medical Associationís Division for Representation. Donald J. Palmisano, MD, a member of the AMA's Board of Trustees, said "the AMA strongly supports collective efforts by employed physicians to ensure that they have a significant degree of influence over clinical issues and retain their clinical autonomy. The AMA supported the RPC in their campaign because they agreed never to strike or withhold services to patients as a bargaining chip."

The RPC was formed in July 1997 when physicians employed at RHS became increasingly frustrated at being shut out of key decisions that affected their medical practice and professional lives, said Dr. Palmisano.

According to James J. Foskett, MD, one of three physicians involved in the formation of the RPC, management decisions were being made that directly impacted patient care unilaterally-without the necessary input from physicians and support staff. The orthopaedic surgeon said, "This put our practice in jeopardy for possible compromise of patient care."

Dr. Palmisano said, "RPC will remain in effect to provide a unified voice for RHS physicians. If RHS weakens in its commitment to becoming a physician-led organization, RHS will renew its petition for election before the end of the year."

The RHC owns one hospital and 11 ambulatory care units.

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