Nurses at 21 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California and the Central Valley pheld a one-day picket Wednesday afternoon in protest of what they allege is inadequate nurse staffing and patient care.
The picketing by the California Nurses Association, which represents about 17,000 nurses at Kaiser hospitals, took place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at six sites in the East Bay, including Walnut Creek Kaiser, three in San Francisco and along the Peninsula, four in the North Bay and two in the South Bay.
The nurses' union alleges that low staffing has become a chronic problem in some Kaiser emergency rooms and other hospital areas.
"It breaks my heart to see patients having to wait too long to receive care, or are not able to access care because of the high co-payments that Kaiser is charging for them," nurse practitioner Lauri Hoagland said.
Kaiser Permanente released a statement saying the hospitals will operate normally during the picketing, and that the union's claims "have little to do with facts."
The statement by Gay Westfall, senior vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Northern California, said Kaiser's nurse staffing levels "comply with, and sometimes exceed, state-mandated staffing requirements at our hospitals."
Westfall said hospital officials have limited flexibility to realign staff under their current agreement with the union, so "we have a surplus of hospital RNs every day at certain medical centers and departments throughout the region -- and a need to supplement staffing in others."
Westfall said, "If CNA is willing to bargain 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."