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Nurses say yes, Kaiser says no
Kaiser-Petition-DSC 7057-LT
Nurses along with some of their supporters arrived Wednesday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Manteca with a petition urging the return of services eliminated earlier in the year. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

They came with a petition of more than 400 signatures to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.

Kaiser  Manteca hospital nurses and those covered by Kaiser continued their efforts Wednesday to bring back services cut earlier this year.

The group led by the California Nurses Association – support also came from folks attending a weekend community forum, including many seniors from Woodbridge-Del Webb – requested that Kaiser re-open the 17-bed third floor to admit patients from the Emergency Room.

Furthermore, they asked that Kaiser stops denying admission to patients in need of longer term recovery, specifically, the second floor sub-acute unit.

According to Amy Glass, a Manteca resident who happens to work in the intensive care unit at Kaiser-Modesto, these cuts to patient services took place this year.

“Our turnout was fabulous,” said Glass, who was somewhat disappointed at the absence of a high-ranking hospital official during the delivery of the petition.

Corwin Harper, vice president and area manager representing Central Valley Area Kaiser, said in a statement that the community may be receiving misleading and inaccurate information from CNA, the nurses union.

“This is causing unnecessary alarm and confusion, especially among senior citizens,” he said.

For example, Harper pointed out that hospital maternity and pediatrics coupled with interventional radiology – as listed among the cuts – were never offered at Kaiser-Manteca.

“These irresponsible scare tactics are being used by CNA as part of a labor dispute with Kaiser around the nurse staffing and do nothing to advance quality of care of services,” said Harper.

He added, “The truth is, we regularly evaluate the services at our Manteca and Modesto facilities – which operate under a single hospital license to serve the broader Central Valley – to determine how to best meet the evolving needs of people in Manteca, Modesto and the Central Valley for high quality, affordable care, now and in the future.”

Kaiser, earlier, denied any thoughts of the hospital closing.

Based on the loss of services – namely, cardiology, radiology, orthopedic and gastrointestinal, since January – nurses and their supporters believe otherwise.

“These closures are scaring me,” said Jacqueline Rudy, who moved to Del Webb with her husband, Dennis, about six years ago because of its proximity to Kaiser-Manteca. “Dennis was admitted in Manteca, but this year he has already been transferred by ambulance several times to Modesto, especially at night and on a pair of very busy freeways.”

Ruth Somera, who is in med surge there and with the hospital for the past 18 years since its St. Dominic’s days, is hoping that Kaiser-Manteca will again be fully functional. “These are basic services that any well-run hospital should have – our patients’ care is being delayed and disrupted.”

Glass agreed, adding that these cuts have created a bottleneck at the ER entrance, in turn, creating a domino effect on ambulances throughout San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. She also mentioned that the hospital recently halted shuttle services.

“We have spoken with emergency room nurses, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and patients about the impacts,” Glass said. “Patients are often experiencing long wait times to simply be admitted to the ER.

“Ambulances are tied down outside the hospital – they call it ‘wait time’ – either waiting to have their patients admitted or being used to transfer patients to and from Modesto.”

Glass, in addition, indicated that firefighters have had to wait as long as 16 minutes at a Code 3 (emergency) for an ambulance to arrive. “That’s unacceptable,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kaiser officials are continuing to evaluate how best to align services provided at the Manteca / Modesto facilities.

“We value our nurses and the outstanding care they provide every day,” said Harper. “We regret that CNA is attempting to use Manteca as a platform in what is essentially a region-wide dispute about adjusting nurse staffing to align with the number of patients in our hospital.

“We are proud of our long history working successfully with organized labor over more than 65 years. We will continue our attempt to engage CNA in productive bargaining over nurse staffing issues, and hope that the union will stop confusing our members, our employees and the public by spreading misleading and inaccurate information.”