(CTN News) – Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest health-care nonprofit organization, has gone on strike in hospitals and medical offices in five states after the company and labor negotiators failed to resolve a dispute over staffing levels.
According to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, this is the largest strike by health care workers in U.S. history.
Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical offices in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Washington are targeted by the strike. There are nearly 13 million Kaiser Permanente patients across eight states and the District of Columbia, and the company operates 39 hospitals and more than 600 medical offices.
There are hundreds of striking workers, including vocational nurses, emergency department technicians, radiology technicians, X-ray technicians, respiratory therapists, medical assistants and pharmacists.
In addition to better wages and benefits, unions representing Kaiser workers are demanding long-term investments to address a staffing shortage. Kaiser executives and workers are currently negotiating.
A staffing crisis has led to unsafe working conditions and deteriorating patient care, according to Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.
“We continue to have front-line health-care workers who are burnt out and stretched beyond their limits, leaving the industry,” Lucas told CNBC.
The reason people are getting injured at work is that they are trying to do too much, see too many people and work too quickly. “This is not a sustainable situation.”
Kaiser said it has contingency plans in place to ensure that patients continue to receive care in the event of a strike. In accordance with the company, all hospitals and emergency departments will remain open.
A strike by Kaiser Permanente is the latest action by organized labor this year, as inflation and a shortage of workers have intensified tensions over pay, benefits, and staffing.
There are approximately 25,000 members of the United Auto Workers on strike against Ford Motor, General Motors, and Stellantis at the present time. A 150-day walkout by Hollywood writers came to an end last week after they secured a pay increase and improved benefits.
According to Patricia Pittman, an expert at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, hospitals have had difficulty retaining staff due to the low pay and high stress associated with the health-care industry in times of low unemployment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the staffing shortage, according to Pittman. The worker stated that many workers left the field because they felt that hospital administrators were not doing enough to protect them from both the virus and the antagonism of some members of the community.
“The health care workers lived through a period of tremendous fear and uncertainty about themselves and their families, and often felt unsupported by the administration and the community,” Pittman said.
Health-care workers are facing a great deal of stress, Kaiser Permanente acknowledged this week.
Over 5 million people have left their health-care jobs since 2013, and burnout is at an all-time high, according to a company statement released on Monday. According to Kaiser, it is committed to achieving a fair and equitable agreement.
Nevertheless, the union coalition alleged that management failed to adequately address workers’ concerns regarding unsafe staffing levels. According to the coalition, the three-day strike is a protest against Kaiser executives’ “bad faith bargaining.”
A profit of $2 billion was reported by Kaiser in the second quarter, compared to a loss of $1.2 billion a year earlier. In the second quarter, the nonprofit generated $25 billion in revenue.