Nurses, patients march to protest Kaiser cuts
Manteca Bulletin, 11/18/13
By Rose Albano-Risso
Some 60 nurses, Kaiser patients and community supporters used foot power along with a couple in wheelchairs Friday to protest service cuts at the Manteca medical facility. Ten of the protesters were registered nurses, including Zenei Triunfo-Cortez who is one of four presidents representing the California Nurses Association.
The walkers, who marched on the north side of West Yosemite Avenue from North Union Road to the Kaiser Hospital on St. Dominic’s Drive, carried signs that read, “Some cuts don’t heal,” and the names of hospital services that have been cut back – endoscopy tests, orthopedic surgery, sub-acute rehab, among others – written on the image of a Band-Aid.
Triunfo-Cortez said the nurses were there simply to support Kaiser patients and concerned members of the community in their effort to stop the hospital from closing some its units and moving some of its services to Modesto and Stockton.
“Kaiser keeps asserting that this is part of the nurses’ labor dispute. We’re just here to support the cause; to support the patients especially the seniors who moved here intentionally to be close to the hospital,” said Triunfo-Cortez who works at a Kaiser hospital in South San Francisco.
“This is not for the nurses; this is for the community,” rejoined Ruth Somera, a registered nurse working in the Med-Surg/Telemetry unit of Manteca Kaiser where she has worked since 2004. She also worked at the medical facility when it was St. Dominic’s Hospital before it was purchased by Kaiser, and was one of the employees who were retained.
“Lots of seniors retired here to be near the hospital,” added Triunfo-Cortez, referring especially to many of the residents at the age-restricted Woodbridge at Del Webb community on North Union Road.
Having several medical services moved to Modesto or Stockton has resulted in hardship for patients such as Joann E. McNabb, a Manteca senior resident who joined Friday’s walk in her wheelchair, the nurses maintained. Triunfo-Cortez and Somera said when McNabb went to Kaiser in Manteca, she was transferred via ambulance to Kaiser in Modesto. When she was done at the hospital, McNabb had to call a friend to pick her up and drive her home. Not knowing she was going to be transported to Modesto, she was unable to make any prior transportation arrangements, Triunfo-Cortez said.
Addressing that particular concern, Kaiser Permanente North Valley spokesman Edwin M. Garcia responded, “We provide assistance for patients who are transported to Modesto and do not have return transportation. We work with the patient to connect with family members or friends to help arrange for transportation home. If a family member or friend is not available, we will make arrangements with a medi-van if appropriate, or arrange for and provide a voucher for a taxi.”
Garcia added, “Kaiser Permanente covers the transportation costs for patients who are transported from our Manteca Emergency Department to our Modesto Emergency Department.”
He also referred to an earlier statement made by Corwin Harper, Kaiser senior vice president and area manager of the Central Valley area, in which he assured Manteca Kaiser members that there is no intent to “(shut) the doors on our presence in Manteca.” He also accused the CNA of being “irresponsible” by creating “this fear and then fan its flame to further the union’s own agenda.”
As to the changing delivery of health care services, this is happening not just at Kaiser Permanente, Corwin pointed out. “These changes in care delivery are part of a national trend in which hospital admissions and length of stay have declined and are continuing to go down. As an example of the impact of these changes, overall in Northern California, there are about 400 fewer patients per day in Kaiser Permanente hospitals than five years ago.
“As all health care providers are doing, we are continuing to evaluate the changes in health care and the transformation occurring in care delivery, to determine the best ways to align our clinical resources and make sure they are where they are needed. In the Central Valley we’re fortunate to be able to offer our members the entire range of high quality care, including complex specialty care, through the combined services of our Manteca and Modesto facilities, which are only 14 miles apart and operate under a single hospital license.”
Triunfo-Cortez and Somera insisted the nurses’ union holds nothing against Manteca Kaiser and is only concerned about patients’ safety and their continuum of care.
“Bottom line is, we want them here. We’re not against them,” said Somera who has been a nurse for 22 years. Triunfo-Cortez has been working in her professional field for 30-plus years.
The fact Manteca Kaiser is easily accessible via three major highways – Interstate 5, Highway 99, and 120 Bypass – gives it a centralized location for its members in this part of the Valley and hence, its presence here is highly valuable, Somera said.