As approximately 4,000 Kaiser Permanente workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington prepare to go on strike this week, the health care provider is advising its patients to expect some delays. The strike, led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is scheduled to begin on Wednesday and last through early Saturday morning. It would involve certified nursing assistants, lab staff, housekeeping staff, dental assistants, and other workers.
Kaiser officials have stated that critical care services will not be disrupted, but there may be delays in less urgent needs, despite the health provider’s contingency plans. Some elective surgeries and non-urgent appointments may need to be rescheduled if the strike takes place. While Kaiser does not expect to close any of its facilities, patients may experience longer wait and hold times during the strike.
The ongoing strike of pharmacy workers has already had an impact at Kaiser. Outpatient pharmacies at several medical offices have temporarily closed, although pharmacies in hospitals and urgent care clinics remain open. Kaiser has contracted with retail pharmacies to assist with filling prescriptions during the strike and encourages patients to check for available locations.
Kaiser has historically had a close partnership with its unions and has avoided most strikes since the 1990s. However, the current negotiations are more strained, with the SEIU employees being part of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, a group that once represented all of Kaiser’s unionized workers. The coalition plans to strike in multiple states and the District of Columbia. The unions argue that Kaiser’s chronic understaffing has boosted profits while negatively impacting patients and working conditions. Kaiser maintains that it offers competitive pay and benefits but is facing the industry-wide issue of burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The union and Kaiser representatives will continue bargaining to attempt to avoid the strike. Both sides emphasize the importance of quality care for Kaiser patients, but the union asserts that the administration must address the issue of staffing shortages.
– Original article: Healthcare Dive
– Additional information: OPB