KAISER PERMANENTE: No Evidence Found To Support Nurses’ Claims
"After examining evidence such as nurse-to-patient ratios and independent evaluations," the San Francisco Chronicle reports that it has found little evidence to back up the California Nurses Association's charges that "the giant HMO has cut nursing staffs so low that it is threatening" patient care. The Chronicle reports that "[s]ome independent experts who have examined the evidence say there's nothing to back up the assertion that Kaiser patients may be dying needlessly in their beds." Joanne Spetz, an economist with the Public Policy Institute of California, said, "I don't see a smoking gun anywhere. The data just don't show these wholesale declines in nursing staffing or problems with quality." According to a study by Spetz, "the average registered nurse hours per patient per day rose from 7.19 in 1991 to 7.63 in 1996" for Kaiser's Northern California region. According to Kaiser's own data, it had a 2.5% readmission rate in the first half 1997, "down from nearly 2.7% in the first half of 1996" and up only slightly over the number from the early 1990s. In addition, "[p]atient satisfaction surveys by groups such as the Pacific Business Group on Health ... generally give Kaiser high marks compared with its peers." The Chronicle reports that "[n]o independent expert could be found to verify the CNA's strongest claims, that people are dying because of cost-cutting."
Reaction From CNA
Chronicle reports that "[w]hen pressured to prove its assertions, CNA officers offered government inspection reports and individual horror stories from union nurses." In reference to the data in economist Spetz' report, "CNA press spokesperson Chuck Idelson said the numbers Kaiser provided to Spetz are flawed." In addition, the CNA said that Kaiser "understat[ed] hospital readmissions by sending returning patients to clinics instead of hospitals." Finally, Idelson charged that the Chronicle could not find any independent experts to verify the CNA's claims "because all but a handful of experts have been 'bought off by the industry'" (Hall, 2/6).