Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

Nurses from Kaiser Permanente facilities in the greater Bay Area and throughout the state picketed last week to protest the health care giant’s alleged refusal to address concerns about health, safety and short staffing, according to the union California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

Registered nurses and nurse practitioners from 22 Kaiser facilities across the state participated in the Sept. 1 picket and said they have been in negotiations for a new contract with minor movement on important issues.

The nurses’ union says they want contracts that include health and safety provisions that address the dangers of infectious diseases, workplace violence prevention standards that protect frontline nurses, and minimum staffing guidelines that ensure safe patient care.

“Kaiser made more than $14 billion during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet we are still struggling with chronic short staffing statewide,” CNA president Cathy Kennedy and a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Roseville said in a news release.

Kaiser Permanente said in a statement that staffing shortages are affecting all the care and other parts of the U.S. and their facilities are not immune to the trend.

Blaine Van Ausdeln, a retired nurse practitioner, joins nurses in a picket line outside Kaiser Permanente in Manteca on Sept. 1, 2022. Ausdeln worked at Kaiser Permanente in Stockton for 28 years before retiring. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

“We hear the fatigue and frustration of our nurses, and we continue to work effectively to hire and retain skilled, dedicated nurses,” Kaiser’s statement said. “Health care continues to face high demand, and we are actively working to fill open care delivery positions, as well as also bringing in experienced temporary staff to support our workforce, so they can continue to provide high-quality care.”

Northern California nurses have been negotiating since June while Los Angeles nurses have been attempting to come to an agreement since August of last year, according to the CNA/NNU.

“You would think that, after two years, nurses would have guaranteed PPE, screening, testing, and necessary sick leave after exposure,” Tinny Abogado, a registered nurse in the transitional care unit at Kaiser Los Angeles, said in a press release. “Sadly, after years putting our lives and communities at risk, Kaiser has still failed to provide those guarantees in our contract.”

A Kaiser representative said the health care company is optimistic that they will soon reach an agreement that honors their nurses while also prioritizing affordability for their members.

One nurse from the Kaiser Fresno location alleges that her coworker died due to not having necessary personal protective equipment.

Some Kaiser Permanente facilities in the greater Bay Area that had the demonstrations included medical centers in Manteca, Modesto, Antioch, Fremont, Oakland, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, and San Jose.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.