18k Kaiser nurses vote for option to strike at California facilities


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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.



Judge rules against Berkshire Medical Center in court battle over planned nurse strike


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Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Medical Center lost its court battle to avert a planned Oct. 3 nurse strike, according to a report on iBerkshires.com.

The 298-bed community hospital filed a legal request for an injunction to avert the planned strike last month. However, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni in Springfield, Mass., denied Berkshire Medical Center’s request Friday, meaning the 24-hour walkout is still scheduled, according to the report.

In response to the judge’s ruling, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents nearly 800 Berkshire Medical Center nurses, told Becker’s via email: “If the hospital was really serious about doing anything to stop the strike, they would negotiate in good faith over the patient care conditions nurses are seeking. As [the] federal judge’s ruling shows, nurses have a legally protected right to advocate for themselves and their patients. BMC nurses are prepared to strike for 24 hours, but still hope that management does this right thing, returns to the bargaining table and seeks a fair agreement.”

Berkshire Medical Center expressed disappointment in the judge’s ruling.

“This strike does not serve anyone’s best interests — not the nurses, not the hospital’s and not the community’s, and can only serve to harm all three,” the hospital said in an emailed statement to Becker’s. “We are fully prepared to provide uninterrupted care throughout the five-day period and have been preparing for this eventuality for several months. The fact that this is the third such strike by the MNA since June makes it evident that this is a tactic the union is using to promote its statewide political agenda.”

Both sides have been negotiating for about a year, with key sticking points including staffing and health insurance. The 24-hour strike is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Oct. 3 and last until 7 a.m. Oct. 4. At that point, hospital officials have said nurses won’t be able to return to work for another four days because Berkshire Medical Center hired replacement workers for a minimum five-day contract. The MNA has also scheduled a “patient safety vigil” Oct. 2 prior to the planned strike.


Allina nurses reject contract, remain on strike



Allina Health hospital nurses voted Monday night to reject a contract offer from their employer, increasing the likelihood that their walkout over health benefits, staffing and safety concerns will go down as the longest nursing strike in Minnesota history.

While the Minnesota Nurses Association had not recommended a “no” vote, many nurses said they felt Allina’s latest offer was too similar to one they rejected in August, and to the terms their union negotiators rejected during last-ditch negotiations in September to avert a strike.

A new sign reading “New Lipstick, Same Pig” appeared at the picket line outside Allina’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis Monday morning, foreshadowing the vote result that the union announced at 10:30 p.m. in St. Paul.

While she declined to provide exact results, MNA executive director Rose Roach called the vote margin “resounding” and said it sent a clear message from front-line nurses to go back to the bargaining table. “Each of them voted with their conscience, and with their patients and their families in mind,” she said.

The results mean that strikes will continue at Abbott as well as United Hospital in St. Paul, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, Unity Hospital in Fridley and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis.

More than 4,000 nurses have been on strike for 29 days, since Labor Day, after a one-week walkout in June. The state’s longest nursing strike, in 1984, lasted 38 days.

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