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Nurses Say Kaiser Will Make Kids Drive Too Far For Hospital Care

Union City Patch , 4/18/12

By Tom Abate and Analisa Harangozo | Union City Patch | April 17, 2012

Nurses and community groups will rally in Hayward Tuesday afternoon to demand that Kaiser Permanente build a pediatric inpatient ward at its new San Leandro Medical Center when the health care giant closes its Hayward hospital in 2014.

The construction in San Leandro and the closure in Hayward are both driven by state requirements to make hospitals safer in the event of earthquakes.

The new San Leandro facility will meet those requirement when it opens in 2014, while the Hayward hospital, which isn't up to those standards, will be retired.

Today's protest is focused on one consequence of this shift: Kaiser's hospital in Hayward has an inpatient unit to treat patients under the age of 18. The new San Leandro center will deliver babies and offer neonatal intensive care, but it will not provide hospital care to older youths.

Pediatric nurse Kris Richter is a member of the California Nurses Association (CNA) and protest organizer who has worked for Kaiser's Hayward hospital for more than 30 years.

She said the shutdown means that families and patients from Union City, Newark, Castro Valley, Hayward and San Leandro will have to drive to Oakland or Santa Clara, where Kaiser will centralize inpatient pediatric care.

"When children are hospitalized it is one of the most stressful times in a family's life," she said. "It's not reasonable to make them drive further."

Richter said that when Hayward's inpatient pediatric unit is closed, Kaiser should create an inpatient unit for young patients in the San Leandro facility that is still under construction.

She said nurses were originally told that San Leandro would have an inpatient pediatric unit but Kaiser changed that plan. CNA wants Kaiser to go back to what the union says was the original intent to have a pediatric inpatient wing in the new San Leandro hospital.

But Dr. Greg Rozycki, associate chief of pediatrics for Kaiser-Permanente in Hayward, said the original plan was to create a temporary pediatric inpatient unit in San Leandro at a time when that facility was scheduled to open before the new hospital under construction in Oakland.

Now the schedules have changed and Oakland will open before San Leandro, removing the rationale for a temporary inpatient unit for young people.

Rozycki said the cost of hospital construction -- Kaiser is spending $2 billion on its San Leandro and Oakland projects -- forces providers to centralize services in speciality centers like the inpatient pediatric units in Oakland and Santa Clara that will serve wider areas.

"It may be more difficult to get to the site but what you get when you get there will make the drive worthwhile," said Rozycki, adding that the new Oakland center will have state of the art care as well as amenities for visiting families, such as places to stay overnight if need be.

Rozycki also said that while inpatient pediatric services will go away in Hayward after 2014, Kaiser is expanding outpatient clinics for kids in Fremont, Hayward and San Leandro.

He said outpatient services comprise the overwhelming volume of pediatric care. He said the southern Alameda County area had roughly 120,000 outpatient pediatric visits a year, versus an average of four pediatric hospital patients per day in Hayward, or just under 1,500 a year.

But Richter, the pediatric nurse, said closing the Hayward kids' hospital unit without replacing it in San Leandro "would diminish the services that Kaiser patients have today."

The rally is scheduled to take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today in front of Kaiser Permanente at 27400 Hesperian Blvd. in Hayward.

A spokeswoman for the nurse's union said more than 3,000 postcards have been sent to Kaiser from members asking it to keep a second pediatric unit in addition to the one under construction in Oakland.

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