Workers are demanding the nation’s largest nonprofit, private health care provider address low staffing levels
By Physician’s Briefing Staff HealthDay Reporter
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 4, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Health care workers who serve millions of Americans began a three-day strike on Wednesday after contract negotiations over staffing levels stalled.
More than 75,000 members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions began walking off their jobs as early as 6 a.m. in Virginia and Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported. The union, whose contract expired Saturday, represents medical assistants, surgical and lab technicians, and pharmacists, among other staffers.
Workers and the nation’s largest nonprofit, private health care provider failed to reach an agreement over the weekend. Along with staffing levels, pay and benefits are an issue, CNBC reported.
Paula Coleman, a 10-year clinical lab assistant who oversees blood and urine testing for Kaiser in Englewood, Colorado, and plans to strike, said low staffing levels in her lab jeopardize patient care. Coleman, often the only person working in her lab in the early mornings, fears she would not have backup if an emergency struck while she was drawing a patient’s blood.
The strike will target Kaiser hospitals and medical offices in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Washington state. Employees in Kaiser facilities in Georgia would not be affected. Kaiser Permanente serves nearly 13 million patients and operates 39 hospitals and more than 600 medical offices across the United States.
Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, said staffing shortages have made working conditions unsafe and have led to deteriorating care for patients. “We continue to have front-line health care workers who are burnt out and stretched to the max and leaving the industry,” Lucas told CNBC. “We have folks getting injured on the job because they’re trying to do too much and see too many people and work too quickly. It’s not a sustainable situation.”
Meanwhile, Kaiser has said that it has contingency plans to ensure continued patient care. The company is providing online status reports and has said it is confident negotiations will be successful. Still, the coalition of unions has accused Kaiser of negotiating in bad faith and committing unfair labor practices, CNBC reported.
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