KAISER PERMANENTE: Nurses Union Claims HMO Used ‘Scapegoating’ Tactic
The California Nurses Association has filed labor grievances against Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest HMO, in the aftermath of a "scathing" state report on Kaiser Oakland's home health agency, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The 144-page Kaiser Oakland home health survey, conducted by the state Department of Health Services, cites "systematic problems" that placed patients in "immediate jeopardy," culminating in the death of an elderly man from malnutrition and deeply infected bed sores. Around the same time that state evaluators conducted a post-investigation audit, Kaiser handed down disciplinary action against three nurses -- firing one and suspending two others -- a move that triggered the union grievances. "(Kaiser officials) had to show that they were taking strong actions to correct the problems. We think it's grossly unfair that they are making scapegoats out of people," Joe Keffer, the nurses' labor representative, charged. Keffer blamed budget cuts, increased regulatory requirements and staffing shortages for the problems at Kaiser, noting that "ultimately, patients pay the price." According to Senior Vice President Bettie Coles, however, Kaiser took the survey's findings "to heart and created an aggressive time line and action plans." She said, "The problems were identified and very aggressively rectified." The DHS study found lapses in communication and coordination of care at Kaiser, as well as inadequate staff training (Wells, 5/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.