Nurses decry excessive CEO salaries as services decline
OAKLAND–(ENEWSPF)–January 20, 2012. Kaiser Permanente registered nurses issued a sympathy strike notice Thursday, for January 31, the California Nurses Association announced today. The sympathy strike is the second walk-out that the 17,000 Northern California Kaiser CNA RNs and nurse practitioners will participate in support of their co-workers and the community. On September 22, thousands of Northern California nurses took to picket lines at more than 30 hospitals to support their colleagues.
Despite record profits and increased compensation for Kaiser executives, Kaiser is insisting on major reductions to workers’ healthcare coverage and retirement benefits and has refused to bargain over staffing issues for direct, frontline healthcare workers, including sufficient staff in mental health services, to provide timely and appropriate care to Kaiser members.
The HMO has refused to address caregiver concerns about chronic short staffing and its negative impacts on patient care. In a 38-paged report, Care Delayed, Care Denied, and drawing on a survey of hundreds of KP NUHW mental health clinicians as well as documentation from regulatory agencies, court filings, patients, and frontline caregivers, the study found that KP frequently failed to comply with California laws aimed at protecting patients’ timely access to appropriate services.
Despite receiving more than $10 billion annually from Medicare to provide a full range of services, including mental healthcare, KP appears to be miscoding patient evaluation procedures, which may result in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents mental health professionals, therapists, and optical workers in Northern California, has been in contract negotiations for several months without significant movement on these issues.
Since 2009, nonprofit Kaiser has earned net revenue of more than $5.6 billion, according to its financial statements. In 2010 Kaiser executives provided a $1 million increase in compensation to its CEO, George Halvorson, who received $8.98 million in compensation. The combined compensation of Kaiser’s top 40 executives totaled more than $55 million in that same year.
“It is disappointing that Kaiser is refusing to bargain for sufficient staffing for mental health services, and a secure retirement and accessible health coverage for its frontline caregivers despite its record profits,” said Zenei Cortez, RN, CNA Co-President, who works at Kaiser South San Francisco. “We will continue to honor the basic tenets of nursing and stand in support of our colleagues, our patients, and communities.”