AAOC Update: Opportunities and Crises in the Years Ahead
Affiliate Officers of UNAC/UHCP wasted no time in getting down to business on the first morning of their annual conference, when they considered the challenges and opportunities facing nurses and healthcare professionals from the new national healthcare law, and from efforts to balance the California state budget.
"We are member-driven," UNAC/UHCP President Ken Deitz reminded member-leaders gathered at Cal Poly Pomona for the 2011 Annual Affiliate Officers Conference (AAOC). "Transparency and accountability are key to our autonomous affiliate structure."
Jean Ross of the California Budget Project discussed efforts to balance California's $26 billion budget deficit. Governor Brown's budget had proposed a balance of spendings cuts and taxes--an idea supported by a majority of Californians. Only the cuts passed the legislature. The challenge now is to extend temporary tax increases, or more severe cuts threaten, which could delay the first day of public school until November 1 or even after Thanksgiving, and lead to closures of state colleges and universities.
Beth Capell, one of UNAC/UHCP's legislative and policy advocates in Sacramento, discussed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AFSCME and the U.S. Labor movement were instrumental in winning passage of this revolutionary law, which will lead both to increased demand for healthcare--including more nurses--and also pressure on providers to cut costs, presenting challenges to UNAC/UHCP in bargaining.
Affiliate Officers in breakout groups discussed these challenges. "We've all got to stick together," said Cecilia Hipolito-Fischer, RN and Hospital President at Kaiser West LA. "Management has got to feel our unity." Officers agreed that UNAC/UHCP must educate its members about the ACA and engage them in meeting the challenges and opportunities presented by this revolution in American healthcare.