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Seniors and nurses oppose service cuts at Kaiser hospital in Manteca

The Modesto Bee, 11/21/13

By Ken Carlson

MANTECA — Kaiser Permanente’s actions to consolidate more services at its north Modesto hospital are not sitting well with seniors and other residents in Manteca.

Retirees at the Woodbridge by Del Webb community in northwest Manteca have joined with unionized nurses to protest the disappearing services at Kaiser’s Manteca hospital on West Yosemite Avenue.

Kaiser closed almost 20 patient rooms on the hospital’s third floor. And cuts to emergency ultrasound, gastroenterology and other diagnostic services are diverting patients from Manteca to Modesto, said Amy Glass, an intensive care nurse at Kaiser’s north Modesto hospital.

This year, almost 2,000 patients have been transferred from Manteca to Modesto, Glass said. News releases from the California Nurses Association claim patients needing more recovery time are often denied admission to the second floor subacute unit in Manteca.

“I don’t see the logic of taking away services with the families moving in and the seniors who live here,” said Karen Kuns, a former Bay Area resident who said she moved with her husband to the 700-home Del Webb because it was a few miles from a full-service hospital.

The Highway 120 and Interstate 205 corridor is positioned for growth. Residents noted that another 700 homes are planned at Del Webb and thousands of homes are projected for Lathrop near Interstate 5, west of Manteca.

Jackie Rudy, formerly of Fremont and Oakdale, said regional Kaiser officials advised people at a meeting to get used to fewer services at Manteca, as well as innovations such as remote monitoring of patients with chronic illness.

Rudy said she expects patients in outlying communities will be emailing their doctors more often. But her 73-year-old husband with multiple health conditions is on dialysis and often requires hospital care. Early this month, Rudy called 911 when it appeared her husband was suffering a stroke. He waited at the Manteca hospital for six hours before staff said he should be taken to Modesto, Rudy said.

“They should restore the services to Manteca,” Glass said. “You have people who paid their premiums and purchased homes in Manteca because of the Kaiser hospital. The older people can’t drive at night. It’s hard for them to get to Modesto.”

In a statement, Kaiser charged the California Nurses Association is spreading misleading information because it’s embroiled in a labor dispute with the insurer.

“The CNA’s tactics are alarming and using the most vulnerable groups – senior citizens and young families – as part of the union’s Northern California bargaining strategy,” Kaiser’s statement said.

Kaiser said its “advances in clinical quality, prevention, and safety are keeping people healthier, often preventing illnesses and disease from occurring in the first place. As a result, we are seeing shorter and less frequent hospital stays, and fewer patients in our hospitals. At the same time, we are providing high quality care in other appropriate settings, such as medical offices, at home, by phone, and even online.”

According to Kaiser, there is no intention of “shutting the doors on our presence in Manteca. We have no intention of leaving this community.”

The Manteca hospital was called St. Dominic’s when Kaiser acquired the facility in 2004. The Oakland-based health giant severed ties that year with Memorial Medical Center in Modesto and needed more hospital beds for its membership in the region. The Kaiser Modesto Medical Center opened in 2008, combining a full-service hospital with specialty clinics.

Del Webb residents marched last week with CNA members, but said they are mainly concerned about losing medical services. “The more they take away from this Kaiser hospital in Manteca, the more it will affect us,” Kuns said.

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