ANN ARBOR – A group of physician assistants at Michigan Medicine rallied outside the hospital on Tuesday afternoon in a show of support for colleagues bargaining a new contract with the health system.
The United Physician Assistants of Michigan Medicine was first recognized as a union during the pandemic, and negotiations with management have come a long way since October, said UPAMM President Jill Hasen.
“At first, it did not go well at all and then we got some support from the Regents at the University of Michigan,” said Hasen. “Now, bargaining is going extremely well. We’re having wonderful back-and-forth conversations where we’re actually getting work done.”
The rally, Hasen said, was not a protest but rather a show of support for UPAMM’s team of negotiators who are currently engaging in a seven-day negotiation with the university. Those talks end on Friday, and a focal point is the group’s salary proposal.
“We’re pleased with how it’s going and we remain cautiously optimistic,” said Hatim Elhady, a physician assistant with Michigan Medicine’s preoperative clinic. “We hope that negotiations will remain fair when we get to hot button topics including the economic issues.”
Elhady said he saw PA’s work change drastically during the pandemic, including having many redeployed throughout the hospitals to treat COVID patients.
“This caused us, of course, to have increased patient workload, altered work schedules and we were sort of the main pillar for the University of Michigan, too, to make sure their patients got quality care from providers,” said Elhady.
“Physician Assistants are versatile, highly trained, licensed medical providers who diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. It shed light on how we help the university (during the pandemic).”
Michigan Medicine provided the following statement about the negotiations:
Michigan Medicine is entering our final week of negotiations with our valued physician assistants, who are crucial members of our health care delivery teams and have been so influential in keeping our patients safe during this pandemic.
Michigan Medicine has spent the past six weeks diligently working with United Physicians Assistants of Michigan Medicine (UPAMM), which represents about 350 physician assistants, to build a new contract from the ground up. We look forward to the final discussions this week and are confident we will reach a fair and equitable agreement.
Elhady said a fair agreement would not only help improve the lives of PA’s at Michigan Medicine, but would have greater effects on the overall system.
“It will strengthen the entire hospital system as a whole to prevent burnout and set physician assistants up to continue the hard work that they do, which is providing quality patient care,” he said.