NEEDLE STICKS: CHA Reverses Opposition To Migden’s Bill
The California Healthcare Association and Kaiser Permanente, in a "dramatic reversal," yesterday announced their support for a safety-needle bill currently awaiting Gov. Pete Wilson's consideration. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the CHA's "opposition to the measure was expected to lead to the governor's veto." However, there "was no word yesterday on whether Wilson will sign the bill." The only other opposition the bill has faced has come from "staff members within the Wilson administration who are concerned that the legislation would not give health care employers enough time to shift to the new safety needles." But John Duncan, "the state's director of industrial relations and a key advisor to the governor on the measure, called the shift by the health care industry 'a very positive development'" (Carlsen, 9/24).
Change Of Heart
The measure, state Assemblywoman Carole Migden's (D-San Francisco) AB 1208, would require the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration to define safe needle devices and require employers to use them to help prevent accidental needle jabs. The CHA said it changed its position on the bill because it thought the measure would implement emergency regulations for safety needles as soon as Jan. 15, 1999. However, Migden informed the governor and CHA yesterday that the bill's intention as an emergency regulation was to provide sufficient notice to employers of the existence of the standard by Jan. 15, 1999, and that full compliance would not be mandated until Aug. 1. 1999. The CHA said the August target date was much more reasonable than the January one (CHA release, 9/24).
Let's Get Together
The Chronicle reports that the "unexpected announcement prompted a virtual lovefest between unions representing health care employees and the employers" (9/24). "We believe the Cal OSHA's method of developing these recommendations, coupled with Assemblywoman Migden's bill, constitute a balanced, reasonable and timely approach to addressing this problem," said Richard Pettingell, senior vice president of operations for Kaiser Permanente's California Division. Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said, "We applaud Kaiser Permanente. ... This lifesaving breakthrough is another success for our labor-management partnership" (Kaiser release, 9/23). In related news, the Service Employees International Union Nurse Alliance held a press conference at the Capitol yesterday urging Wilson to sign the safety-needle bill (Kerr, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/24). Wilson has until Sept. 30 to veto or sign the bill. Click needle stick for past CHL coverage of the issue.