Kaiser RNs to Press Patient Care Concerns As Talks on New Contract Open Thursday
Representing 18,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners, the Kaiser RN nurse negotiating team will open talks Thursday with Kaiser Permanente on a new collective bargaining agreement affecting 21 Kaiser hospitals and 66 clinics throughout Northern and Central California.
For RNs, the focus will be on reversing what they see is a worrisome erosion in patient care standards – even at time when Kaiser, which is both the largest health insurer and hospital system in California, is recording record profits and rapidly expanding signups.
Patient care concerns are symbolized by what the RNs say is chronic understaffing and cuts in patient services that reduce access to hospital care.
Those cuts include restrictions of hospital admissions, holding patients in “observation” status for up to 72 hours, and prematurely sending patients from Kaiser hospitals to other settings, including home where the burden falls on family members for providing care.
Kaiser RNs have for the past year also voiced opposition to reductions in hospital patient services, such as the closure of the pediatric unit at Kaiser Hayward and service cuts at Kaiser’s Manteca hospital.
“When Kaiser continues to collect premiums and denies or limits care for our patients, we are going to make our voices heard,” 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.
Kaiser profits for the first quarter of 2014 jumped 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 $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 unnecessary, says CNA/NNU.