KAISER PERMANENTE: Nurses Begin Two-Day Walkout
"Hospitals throughout Northern California weathered the start of a two-day nurses' strike at Kaiser Permanente yesterday, despite predictions of a hospital-bed shortage due to California's worst flu season in 17 years," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (DeBare/Hytha, 1/29). "Fears that [the] strike by more than 7,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses would trigger a catastrophe at emergency rooms around Northern California failed to become reality," reports the San Jose Mercury News. However, "[n]on-Kaiser hospitals, already overloaded with their own patients, did have to scramble to care for people turned away by Kaiser." Columbia San Jose Medical Center spokesperson Carla Zaccheo said, "We've been busy, but we've been able to handle everything" (Gathright/Moreno, 1/29). The AP/Modesto Bee reports that the strike left "hospitals from Sacramento to Fresno scrambling to find beds for patients amid a nasty flu season." According to hospital officials, the strike "comes at a bad time" because of the flu outbreak. Nathan Nayman, regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, said, "The number of people filling beds hasn't been this high since 1981." However, Kaiser officials throughout the state said the nurses' strike was causing "moderate to minimal disruptions" to their facilities (Miller, 1/29). The Chronicle reports that "Kaiser members said they were getting the care they needed." Ken August, a spokesperson for the Department of Health Services, said, "It looks like the hospitals are very busy, but they are managing" (1/29).
State Of Affairs
The AP/Contra Costa Times reports the strike "had a ripple effect as other hospitals dealt with both the flu outbreak and the overflow from Kaiser." To compensate, both Kaiser and non-Kaiser hospitals in the area "discharged patients early, reopened closed units, expanded wards into adjacent areas and hired extra staff." The AP/Contra Costa Times reports that Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties "declared local emergencies this week" (Spears/Bender/McCoy/Hong/Hicks/McMillan, 1/29). The AP/Los Angeles Times reports that the 220 hospitals belonging to the hospital council are about 90% filled. Nayman said that many Northern California hospitals are in "internal disaster mode," meaning "staffers are being brought in on mandatory overtime, elective surgeries are being canceled and doctors are making rounds twice a day in an attempt to find patients ready for release" (1/29).
Back To The Table
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports last-minute "attempts to ward off the strike failed early Wednesday morning, but the meetings might lay the foundation for settlement later." Gary Hattel, the federal mediator assigned to the dispute, said, "Both sides are still looking for creative ways to bridge the gaps that still exist" (Lauer, 1/29).