DENVER (KDVR) — FOX31 is hearing from Kaiser Permanente in Colorado for the first time since 75,000 workers nationwide have been on strike.
Kaiser Permanente says despite the loss of employees over the past two days, patient care has not been disrupted.
Kaiser Permanente wouldn’t give specific numbers but said they were able to move up appointments and contact patients ahead of the strike. Plus, they’ve asked administrators who aren’t in the union to step into other roles to fill the gaps.
This preparation was possible because the strike came after nearly six months of prior negotiations.
Kelli Kane is the vice president of ambulatory operations, but during the strike, she has been working the front desk at their hearing services center at their Arapahoe office.
“We’ve been preparing for a potential strike for several months, and in anticipation of a strike, we were able to outreach some of our patients and bring them in early in advance of the strike in case they didn’t feel comfortable receiving care during a strike,” Kane said. “So we were able to care for many patients ahead of time, and we had a slightly lighter schedule for these three days. But our operations have been running smoothly, and we are able now to bring in patients and schedule them this afternoon, tomorrow, so we have a more full schedule.”
One of the union’s main demands is that the company addresses staffing shortages, which Kaiser Permanente said is a post-pandemic challenge.
“Kaiser Permanente has experienced the same challenges that many other health care organizations have experienced since COVID with a lot of burnout, people leaving the field,” Kane said.
Kaiser Permanente: Tentative agreements reached
They’re hopeful a deal will be reached soon, but in the meantime, they have reached a number of tentative agreements, according to Kaiser Permanente. Their offers as of now address what they say are some of the union’s priorities, including:
- Across-the-board wage increases in all markets over the next four years
- Updating the Performance Sharing Plan to include a minimum payout opportunity and potential for up to a $3,750 payout
- Offering minimum wages of $21/hour in Colorado
- Continuing and enhancing our existing excellent health benefits and retirement income plans
- Renewing our strong tuition assistance and training programs and increasing funding of the education trusts
Employees on the front lines say they’ll continue if a settlement isn’t reached.
“This is the last thing we want to do is miss work and not be there for our patients, but if they don’t come to an agreement, we will be out here in November when the other regions’ contracts are up and Kaiser hasn’t come to an agreement,” said Michelle Lewis, a 22-year employee.
The day the strike began, Kaiser Permanente hired 10,000 new coalition-represented employees to address the staffing challenges. This comes three months ahead of their end-of-the-year goal. They also note that all of their medical offices and urgent care departments have remained open.
The strike is set to end on Saturday morning.