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Manteca Kaiser members paid for & deserve full service hospital

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POSTED July 1, 2014 1:08 a.m.

My name is Amy Glass and I am a Manteca resident and an RN in the Kaiser Modesto ICU. I was one of the many Manteca residents who spoke at the Manteca City Council on June 3 in favor of a resolution asking Kaiser to immediately restore the services that it cut from the Kaiser Manteca Medical Center in January 2013.

I’m very pleased that the council did the right thing and passed the resolution despite the efforts of Kaiser to bamboozle them right there in front of everybody and on camera! 

According to Kaiser, they’ve “increased the quality of care and the breadth of care” to members in the “greater Central Valley area” and there has been “no reduction in the number of licensed beds.” They are especially proud of the fact that they’ve developed a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Modesto (NNICU).

The fact that Kaiser touted neonatal services in a chamber full of senior residents speaks volumes on Kaiser’s insensitivity to the real needs of its members. 

Kaiser’s assertion that services have been increased in the Central Valley may be true if you don’t factor accessibility to members into the equation. Its not true if you do.

No one expects to have open-heart surgery in Manteca. This truly is a specialty service that not every hospital can or should provide. However, Kaiser Manteca, until January 2013, provided echocardiograms, ultrasounds, gastroenterology, cardiology and orthopedics. These are services that any fully functioning hospital should provide. 

In an effort to disguise what is essentially a rationing of services, Kaiser asks why wouldn’t we, as patients, want to go where the best equipment and doctors are? What they fail to state is that this equipment and doctors were originally available to the 80,000 members in the Manteca area until January 2013. Now those members have to cross the county line and travel the congested freeway to Modesto to access them. 

At the council meeting, Dr. King stated that there has been no decrease in available beds in the Central Valley but what he doesn’t mention is that they closed the entire third floor and moved those beds to Modesto. So no, there hasn’t been a decrease to the Central Valley, but there are 19 fewer beds available in Manteca. 

In an Op Ed (June 9), Manteca Bulletin editor Dennis Wyatt said, Kaiser “members need to see the big picture and Kaiser’s obligation to stay standing to serve all of its members.”

We do see the big picture and there is something wrong with it. Kaiser members should not have to choose between “the best” and services that are accessible and local. Until Kaiser restores the services that they slashed in Manteca they are failing to meet their obligation to serve all of their members, including seniors.

Wyatt also argued in his Op Ed that my nurse colleagues and I have made “inaccurate representations of Kaiser’s financial picture.” According to Wyatt, Kaiser’s reducing services while it accumulates billions in a reserve fund just “looks obscene.” It really isn’t, says Wyatt, because it isn’t cash. 

No it isn’t cash, but state law requires that the assets in the reserve fund be those that can be easily converted to cash in the event of bankruptcy. We think it’s outrageous that Kaiser is cutting services while stockpiling 1626% in excess of what state law requires in its reserve fund. We don’t have to look any farther than Manteca to understand why Kaiser’s reserve fund is so bloated and its profits, $2.7 billion in 2013 and an average of $12 million per day in 2014, are expanding. 

What Kaiser is doing to Manteca is indicative of its very lucrative business model: Expand membership while consolidating and reducing services. My colleagues and I who work for Kaiser throughout the region have observed how management manipulates the “census” by denying admissions. They then use the low census to justify cutting services. Voila, less care, more profit! 

Well, Kaiser’s business model is clever but it doesn’t take into account the deep feeling that many of us have for our elderly neighbors that have been treated so shabbily. My colleague RNs and I are committed to supporting the seniors and we invite Kaiser members throughout the Manteca area to join us. Let’s work together to win back the full service hospital that Manteca Kaiser members have paid their premiums for and deserve.

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