KAISER NURSES AGREEMENT: Three Perspectives
A "bitter labor dispute" last year between the California Nurses Association and Northern California's Kaiser Permanente negatively affected the health care of thousands of Kaiser members until the two reached an agreement in March that created "an atmosphere in which labor peace could prevail," according to an editorial in today's San Jose Mercury News. This National Labor-Management Partnership Agreement, according to the editorial, gave nurses, health care workers and those most affected "a bigger role in making decisions that affect patients as well as employees." The Mercury News today published perspectives from Kaiser management, the Health Care Workers and the California Nurses Association "on the advantages of their new partnerships" which may "show other HMOs and health care plans the way to go"(6/1).
Richard Barnaby, president of the California Division Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, wrote that Kaiser has "taken a bold leap to create the future of management-labor relations in health care across America," by creating the Partnership after a year of "research, tough decisions and learning how to trust each other to find the answer." Barnaby wrote, "This collaboration will revolutionize health care. And without question, the biggest winner in our new Partnership will be Kaiser Permanente members. They'll be in the willing and capable hands of people who know their work matters. As Henry Kaiser summed it up 50 years ago, 'Labor relations are nothing more than human relations'"(San Jose Mercury News,6/1).
Health Care Workers
Sal Roselli, president of Health Care Workers Union Local 250, "which has 40,000 members in Northern california including licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants, clerical, technical, maintenance and service categories," wrote: "Last year, Local 250's 15,000 Kaiser members took [a] bold step" and "endorsed the Kaiser Partnership." Now, "dozens of union members are making decisions with management which put[s] health care workers in key positions to improve clinical outcomes," and "Local 250 members are reshaping less desirable jobs into good jobs. ... The result is better and faster service to patients." Roselli concludes, "[T]hrough the AFL-CIO/Kaiser Partnership, health care workers have a real voice in shaping their work life and the means to improve services for Kaiser's 2.7 million Northern California members. Contrast this to the situation with other employers, where decision-making remains strictly top down, and workers face confrontations when they advocate for the well-being of their patients and themselves"(San Jose Mercury News, 6/1).
California Nurses Association
Kit Costello, president of CNA, wrote that three years ago "Kaiser invited CNA" to take part in a partnership that was "flawed" and "wholly inadequate to redress the steady erosion in standards of care registered nurses confronted every day. We saw longer waits, more barriers to diagnostic tests, premature hospital discharges and staffing too low for safety." But today, Costello writes, "we have won a landmark contract nationally viewed as a model for its innovative approach to patient care deficiencies. It reinforces our position from the start, that our partnership must always be with our patients and the public, not a corporate employer." Nurses now work inside Kaiser, "using the HMO's existing committees and structures, but free to take unresolved issues to regulatory agencies and the public." As monitors and hands-on providers "that represent systemic problems, as well as intervene in emergency situations such as unsafe staffing, [w]e intend to coordinate [Kaiser's] efforts with CNA's Patient Watch program, so when Kaiser patients report problems, we can track trends to seek improvements." Costello concludes, "It will not be easy. But we will use all our power to insist that the problems we identify are addressed and that patients can carry an additional measure of security when walking through the doors at Kaiser"(San Jose Mercury News, 6/1).