MANASSAS, Va. (DC News Now) — Healthcare workers are sounding the alarm about declining patient service and care within Kaiser Permanente.
Union members argue that Kaiser executives have been unwilling to acknowledge the worsening conditions and the financial strain faced by support staff.
Roughly 3,800 members of OPEIU Local 2 announced their overwhelming decision to authorize a strike against Kaiser Permanente. As the Sept. 30 deadline approaches, union members are pushing for a number of concessions from the employer, including higher pay and better staffing.
In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, Kaiser Permanente operates 45 medical offices serving more than 825,000 members.
Workers claim that Kaiser’s proposals in negotiations are exacerbating the staffing crisis, rather than resolving it.
Katrina Schaetz, a union member and clinical liaison in Manassas, has been with Kaiser for nearly 29 years. She said colleagues are unable to make ends meet and that the 2% raises built into the most recent agreement aren’t sufficient.
In her roll, Schaetz supports doctors and nurses and acts as a knowledgeable and comforting resource for patients.
“Everybody’s struggling, everybody’s burnt out,” she said.
Schaetz said floor staff in clinics are stretched so thin that when a patient experiences a miscarriage, she can’t do much more than offer a box of tissues before rushing to her next case.
“It’s not fair to the patients, they deserve better,” Schaetz said.
In a statement to DC News Now, Kaiser Permanente said the priority “is to reach an agreement that ensures we can continue to provide market-competitive pay and outstanding benefits.”
“In bargaining this year, we are offering across-the-board wage increases, an enterprise-wide minimum wage starting at $21 an hour, continuing our existing excellent health benefits and retirement income plans, and much more. These and our other operational proposals reflect our deep commitment to the economic well-being of our employees.”Kaiser Permanente
The statement also said that the employer is confident a deal will be reached by the Sept. 30 deadline. It did not say what might happen to patients’ appointments if employees do move forward with a strike.
The parties met for two negotiation sessions this week.