By Karl Sonkin
Media Relations at Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is vigilant about patient safety, and we are recognized nationally and internationally for consistently providing high-quality health care to our members and the communities we serve. Our nurse staffing levels comply with, and sometimes exceed, state-mandated staffing requirements at our hospitals.
Statement from Gay Westfall, Senior Vice President, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Northern California:
We are extremely disappointed to receive a notice from CNA for planned picketing. Kaiser Permanente is vigilant about patient safety, and we are recognized nationally and internationally for consistently providing high-quality health care to our members and the communities we serve.
The union leadership's claims about Kaiser Permanente have little to do with facts, and are a tremendous disservice to the outstanding work being done each and every day by our nurses, physicians and staff on behalf of our members and patients.
Nurse Staffing Levels
Our nurse staffing levels comply with, and sometimes exceed, state-mandated staffing requirements at our hospitals. For example, in addition to meeting the ratios, we increase staffing as necessary for patients based on the complexity of their medical condition and acuity.
We greatly value the skill, dedication, and compassion of our nurses, and we appreciate the work they do every day to provide the very best personalized care for our patients.
Our focus on quality and prevention is keeping people healthier and is often preventing illnesses and diseases from happening in the first place. For example, in the past 10 years, Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California have seen a 24-percent drop in heart attacks and a 62-percent decline in serious heart attacks, and a 26-percent reduction in stroke mortality in just the past four years.
This work is not only saving and improving lives, it is also resulting in shorter and less frequent hospitals stays for our patients, and in many cases preventing hospitalizations entirely.
Additionally, we are seeing an ongoing shift in our care delivery from the hospital to other settings such as outpatient clinics, and from those clinics to patients’ homes, over the phone and online. We expect this trend to continue as we provide high-quality care and service to our members where and when they want it.
This is good news for our patients. At the same time, it means we need to adjust nurse staffing to make sure they are where our members and patients want and need them to be.
Discussions with CNA
In late November we reached out to the union, and to our nurses, and expressed our desire to bargain in good faith with CNA to address the need to align staffing with the current numbers of patients in our hospitals, which are declining for the all the right reasons – quality, service and improved utilization.
As we have told CNA and communicated to our nurses, if CNA is willing to work earnestly with us, and with flexibility on our nurses’ part, we believe we will be able to have a position for every nurse who wants one, as we solve our staffing issues by assigning and placing nurses where our patients are getting their care across the care continuum.
Unfortunately, CNA is mischaracterizing the issue at hand and making untrue claims about our staffing and intentions.
All temporary assignments are initially offered to KP nurses who may be seeking additional work or experience. If no KP nurses express interest in these assignments, we hire trained and qualified temporary nurses.
About half of the temporary nurses we hire provide coverage for KP nurses on leaves of absence. As we have said to CNA, we believe that challenges such as having too many nurses in some departments, and the need to supplement staffing in others, can be resolved. We simply need to work together to realign staffing--so our nurses are where our patients need them, providing the right care, at the right time in the right setting—and create training opportunities for KP nurses in specialties where we have needs, such as labor and delivery, critical care, and the operating room.