Several thousand nurses at seven Kaiser Permanente hospitals picketed Wednesday to protest staffing and patient care conditions.
The nurses, represented by the California Nurses Association, claim the health system has failed to increase nursing staff, to train additional nurses and to improve care for patients despite rising costs, according to a news release.
The nurses also allege that Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center continues to be inadequately staffed. About 1,300 registered nurses at the system's flagship hospital went on strike last month to protest staffing conditions.
In a prepared statement Kaiser Permanente denied the nurses' allegations regarding inadequate staffing levels, adding “We believe contract implementation issues should be addressed with management and not in a manner designed to create unnecessary concern among our patients, members and employees.”
In regards to picketing outside Los Angeles Medical Center, Kaiser stated it's “merely another attempt to try to influence the bargaining over a new contract for the nurses at that one location.” Kaiser said it offered nurses an 18% average salary increase in the most recent bargaining session and the California Nurses Association has given “no meaningful feedback about our most recent proposal and made no counter proposal to our wage offer.”
Along with Los Angeles Medical Center, picketing will occur at six other Kaiser facilities: Modesto Medical Center; Oakland Medical Center; San Francisco Medical Center; Santa Clara Medical Center; South Sacramento Medical Center and Vallejo Medical Center.
The picket, which is different from a strike, only includes nurses who are not scheduled to work.
According to union representatives, Kaiser agreed in 2014 to train at least 180 nurses per year to address staffing shortages but nurses claim the system has not followed through.
“A lot of nurses need positions and Kaiser doesn't want to train them,” said Catherine Kennedy, who has been a nurse at Kaiser for 34 years.
The nurses also claim premiums at Kaiser have increased yet the quality of care hasn't improved because of inadequate staffing at the hospitals.
Kennedy said the pickets are intended to inform the community of the conditions at the hospitals.
The California Nurses Association union represents more than 18,000 registered nurses at 87 Kaiser hospitals and clinics across the state.
Kaiser, a 38-hospital system and one of the largest providers in the state, reported $60.7 billion in operating revenue in 2015.