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Nurses, Kaiser could be headed for contract battle

Kathy Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 7/18/14

The California Nurses Association is gearing up for what could be contentious contract negotiations with Kaiser Permanente.

The California Nurses Association is gearing up for what could be contentious contract negotiations with Kaiser Permanente.

The existing contract expires Aug. 31. It covers 17,000 registered nurses across Northern California, including 3,500 in the Sacramento region.

Face-to-face talks begin July 24 and union officials are willing to call a strike if Kaiser proposes cuts considered harmful to nurses or patients.

“Nurses are upset about the model of care and cuts in staffing a while Kaiser posts more than $2 billion in profits,” said Karen Chan, director of the Kaiser division at the union.

Early discharge from emergency rooms and intensive-care units is one issue with the way care is provided, Chan said. Another is insufficient staffing, she added.

Kaiser sometimes pulls nurses off other units to staff the trauma center at its South Sacramento Medical Center, said Diane McClure, a nurse in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit who also serves as chief nurse representative for the union.

“There’s often a scramble,” McClure said. “We really don’t feel like we have the resources we need.”

The trauma program in South Sacramento is staffed by specially trained nurses who work in the emergency department, Kaiser’s South Sacramento area manager Patricia Rodriguez said in a statement.

The ER is staffed to meet both expected and unplanned events. When there is an active trauma case, an ER nurse is assigned to that case for the duration, Rodriguez said. If needed, that nurse’s other duties are covered appropriately by other ER nurses, but nurses are not pulled from other parts of the hospital, she added.

“As we have communicated directly to our nurses, Kaiser Permanente is committed to bargaining in good faith with the California Nurses Association to reach agreement on an equitable contract that exhibits our commitment to our nurses and to the future of Kaiser Permanente,” Rodriguez said. “This includes continuing to provide competitive wages and benefits, a safe workplace, professional development and a secure retirement — all in keeping with the outstanding work our nurses do.”

Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal.

 

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