KAISER PERMANENTE: NURSES BEGIN TWO-DAY WALKOUT
"Hospitals throughout Northern California weathered theThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
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 Californian 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
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).