Public Comment

Press Release: Kaiser RNs Set to Open Contract Talks -Voice Concern About Erosion of Patient Care Standards

From Karen Chan and Charles Idelson
Friday July 25, 2014 - 08:06:00 AM

With contract talks affecting more than 18,000 Kaiser Permanente registered nurses who work in 86 Kaiser hospitals and clinics throughout Northern and Central California set to open next week, RNs today renewed their call to press the HMO/hospital giant to put the breaks on the growing erosion of care standards nurses say put patients at risk.

Negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between Kaiser and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, originally set to open today, are now scheduled to begin July 31 in Oakland.

The talks come at a time of heightened concern by RNs about cuts in care by Kaiser even as it is recording record profits and rapidly expanding membership rolls following implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“We can not provide the care our patients need when Kaiser is limiting access to care or sending patients home too soon which shifts the burden and responsibility of care to family members,” says Zenei Cortez, an RN at Kaiser’s South San Francisco hospital. Cortez is a co-president of CNA and also chairs the Kaiser nurse negotiating team.

“When Kaiser continues to collect premiums and denies or limits care for our patients, we are going to make our voices heard,” said Cortez. Kaiser, CNA notes, has seen its enrollment figures jump 243,000 to 9.3 million system wide. It is the largest insurance company and hospital system in California.

Kaiser profits for the first quarter of 2014 soared to $1.1 billion, a 44 percent increase over the same quarter last year. Its operating revenues were up 6 percent and operating profits up 49 percent during the same period. Last year, Kaiser made $2.7 billion in profits.

Additionally, Kaiser has accumulated a massive $21.7 billion reserve fund, 1,626 percent more than required by the state, a clear indication on top of the nearly $4 billion in profits the past 15 months that cuts are wholly unnecessary, says CNA/NNU.

Among those high profile cuts are the closure of pediatric services in Hayward in November, leaving 100,000 families in southern and central Alameda County without nearby access to hospital care for their children.

The issue was highlighted by the death in April of 6-month-old Jenevieve Dagatan after being discharged after an initial visit to the emergency room at Kaiser’s Hayward hospital. The in-patient pediatric facility saw 1,800 families every year that must now travel to Oakland, San Jose or even Roseville on congested freeways for needed care.

Kaiser RNs, joined by seniors in the central valley, have also been vocal in protesting the sharp cut in services at Kaiser’s Manteca medical center reducing access to care for 80,000 Manteca area residents. In June, Manteca’s City Council passed a resolution calling for immediate restoration of cardiology and radiology-ultrasound services, reopening the hospital’s medical surgical unit, and restoring a fully functional sub acute surgical unit.

System wide, Kaiser RNs said they will continue to demand that Kaiser:

1) Admit patients who need nursing care rather than blocking admission or holding them on gurneys in the Emergency Room.
2) Stop using ‘observation status’ as a way to circumvent in-patient admissions.
3) Place patients in the appropriate hospital unit so they receive the level of care of nursing care their health status needs rather than in inappropriate units with lesser staffing that puts them at risk because an RN could not properly monitor them.
4) Stop the premature discharge of patients who still need hospital care which too often places the burden of care on family members to provide continued complex medical care.
5) Guarantee women in labor who arrive in a hospital or ER are seen immediately by an RN and admitted when needed rather than subjecting them to long waits that can harm the mother and baby.
6) Provide needed equipment and replace broken blood pressure machines, medication scanning machines and basic supplies that are often not available leading to delays in patient care.
7) Stop placing pediatric patients on adult floors without proper security processes that put those children at risk from adult patients.
8) Properly staff hospital blood banks at night to reduce delays in care for patients who need blood for emergencies.
9) Improve RN staffing at a number of Kaiser hospitals that face persistent under staffing which puts patients at risk.
10) Reduce Kaiser premiums and co-pays imposed on Kaiser members and patients.