Tens of thousands unionized registered nurses at facilities owned by Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente voted for the option to call a strike if an agreement is not reached on issues such as staffing and patient care, according to a California Nurses Association news release.
The CNA — which represents 18,000 RNs who work at more than 20 Kaiser Permanente medical centers and dozens of medical clinics and office buildings in California — said nurses are calling on the healthcare giant to improve patient care standards.
“With this vote nurses are making it absolutely clear: We are ready to strike to make sure our patients get safe care,” said Zenei Cortez, a South San Francisco Kaiser Permanente RN and co-president of CNA.
Union officials said nurses specifically are calling on Kaiser Permanente to support their proposals regarding staffing and patient care standards. These include bringing in a charge nurse on each unit, as well as resource nurses to assist other nurses so they are able to take breaks. The union said nurses also propose “interventions with pharmacy to expedite patients receiving correct medications,” and “increased staffing when needed due to emergent conditions and heightened patient volume.”
Additionally, the CNA said nurses are opposed to Kaiser Permanente’s proposal to move from the existing GRASP patient classification system to Epic Acuity, which nurses contend is less transparent. Nurses are also opposed to what they said are Kaiser Permanente’s plans to cut pay for new hires by 10 percent in the Sacramento region, and 20 percent in Fresno and the Central Valley.
Regarding the union’s claims about staffing, Debora Catsavas, senior vice president of human resources for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said in a statement: “Our nurse staffing meets, and often exceeds, state-mandated staffing as necessary for patients, based on the complexity of their medical conditions. We employ more than 18,000 nurses, and have hired more than 2,000 nurses in multiple key specialty areas over the last three years, and continue to hire more as needed.”
As far as the move to Epic Acuity, Ms. Catsavas said the move addresses various issues nurses have raised about the existing GRASP patient classification system.
“GRASP is a system from the 1980s based on studies of nursing work flows conducted nearly 50 years ago. Epic Acuity is an up-to-date, comprehensive system that directly reflects the care provided and allows nurses to spend more time at the bedside,” her statement reads. “Epic Acuity uses clinical information directly inputted by the nurses into our electronic medical record.”
She said Kaiser Permanente also offered nurse representatives paid time to talk about and review Epic Acuity’s implementation.
Furthermore, Ms. Catsavas said there are no proposed wage cuts or wage reductions for current nurses. However, she said Kaiser Permanente last October proposed a new wage scale for new nurses hired in the Sacramento, Central Valley and Fresno areas on or after Jan. 1, 2019, “to more closely align with the lower cost of living in these markets.”
She noted Kaiser Permanente nurses in Sacramento, the Central Valley and Fresno earn 24 percent, 37 percent and 45 percent more than non-Kaiser Permanente nurses, respectively.
While the Kaiser Permanente nurses have authorized a potential strike, no strike date is set. For a strike to occur, nurses would have to provide at least 10 days notice.
Ms. Catsavas said Kaiser Permanente anticipated a strike authorization might occur but believes an agreement is within reach.