Health Care From The Inside

The following articles come from information  from our workplace newsletters that are distributed every two weeks at Kaiser Oakland, Alta Bates in Berkeley, and Highland Hospital in Oakland.

The Crisis in Kaiser Oakland

In the first nine months of 2014, Kaiser reported a profit of $3.1 billion, making 2014 its most profitable year yet. The company has increased its number of members by over 422,000 so far this year. The main reason Kaiser’s profits continue to increase is because they keep their hospitals and clinics critically understaffed. When workers retire, quit, or go on vacation – they are rarely replaced. And if new workers are hired, it is usually as part-time or on call with no benefits.

Short staffing is all over the hospital and the clinics. Most of the positions that used to assist nurses in care have been eliminated, dumping way more work onto nurses. Nurses are rarely covered for their breaks, often having to answer calls on patients while they are supposed to be taking a break. In the Operating Room, surgeries are frequently scheduled so close together that workers don’t have enough time to fully clean the operating rooms. Sometimes surgical instruments weren’t cleaned in time and have to be flash-cleaned at the last minute, which increases the risk of infection for the patient. The pace in the pharmacy is so fast that techs have to cut corners and not always double check the meds they fill. Every floor, every department – all workers are working at crisis levels.

Workers in all industries are understaffed – it’s bad everywhere. But this is a disaster when it is done in health care. The workers here aren’t producing some product – they are taking care of people’s lives.

Sutter Health: Going After Workers

Sutter hospitals in Oakland and Berkeley have recently carried out huge attacks on workers. After nine different strikes and a two and a half year battle, once nurses signed a new contract, Sutter threatened them with over 150 layoffs. Sutter manipulated the new patient census to claim that the nurses were overstaffed. All workers know this is a joke. The company constantly relies on travelers to fill desperately low staffing. In labor and delivery at Alta Bates, pregnant women are often being seen in the hallways because staffing is so low. Workers no longer have time to be trained on new procedures or equipment – they just figure out as they go. Sutter just used the census as an excuse to go after nurses.

The company fired dozens of nurses, and reshuffled the rest, forcing many nurses into positions with fewer hours, with reduced benefits, and pushing many nurses to leave. And what they did to the nurses, they’ve done to LVNs, techs, and all other staff.

They’ve pushed for layoffs, benefit cuts, fewer hours. All workers are doing a lot more work and getting a lot less in return. No wonder Sutter’s profits were at record levels this year.