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Rallying cry for Kaiser nurses, members
KAISER FORUM1 10-14-13
Manteca Kaiser Hospital emergency surgeon Guv Preat Dhillon speaks to those attending Sundays public forum dubbed Save Kaiser Manteca at the First Christian Church. The forum was organized by the California Nurses Association. See additional photos on Page A8. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

A grass-root effort to prevent Kaiser Permanente from continuing to eliminate services and possibly save the Manteca hospital from closing its doors appears to be gaining support.

That’s based on the strong turnout at the “Keep Manteca Safe: Kaiser, don’t close our hospital” community forum Sunday at the First Christian Church in Manteca coupled with the 400 signatures taken from last week’s Pumpkin Fair.

“Our plan is to keep it open is to deliver this petition to Kaiser,” said Kevin Hall, representing the California Nurses Association.

He’s encouraging those who turned up at the weekend forum to link up with hospital nurses and other staffers at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the medical center that was formerly known as St. Dominic’s Hospital.

“It’s important that we ask (hospital officials) the basic question – what’s your plan?” Hall said.

Kaiser Permanente officials told the Bulletin last week that the Manteca facility will remain open for business. But nurses there believe otherwise.

Since the beginning of the year, Ruth Somera, who has been a med surge at Kaiser-Manteca since its St. Domenic days, has seen services eliminated.

Gone are the cardiology, radiology, orthopedic, and gastrointestinal services. She pointed out that maternity and pediatric departments in Manteca were eliminated shortly after Kaiser took over St. Domenic’s in 2004.

Many of these services are now handled at Kaiser-Modesto and Dameron Hospital in Stockton. Kaiser-Manteca, according to Somera, also services Lodi, Lathrop, French Camp, and Tracy.

With 18 years of hospital service, Somera is grateful that Kaiser kept her core staff dating back to the St. Domenic days intact. “We’re faithful to our community,” she said.

Those services where once handled on the third floor until January. Kaiser closed off the entire floor consisting of 19 beds, Somera mentioned.

“Thirteen rooms or beds are all we have left and that’s not OK,” she said. “Many of our services have been taken away.”

Clarice Spann-Reeve in the sub-acute unit faces a similar problem. For many of her patients – some, for example, are paralyzed and can’t take care of themselves – Kaiser-Manteca is their home.

“We have to fight to help keep them home. This is like they’re facing eviction,” she said.

Of the over 40 attending the forum, most were Kaiser members in support of the nurses and their efforts to keep the hospital open. Over one-third of that was made up of seniors from the Del Webb community.

“They all said the same thing: Keep the hospital open,” Hall noted.

Somera and Amy Glass – she works in the intensive care unit at Kaiser-Modesto but is a Manteca resident – actively reached out to the Del Webb residents, going door-to-door with the petition.

For the seniors, eliminating services at Kaiser-Manteca has already created hardships given that many are without regular transportation to Modesto or Stockton. “They chose to live in Manteca because of the hospital and the easy access to get there,” Hall said.

Ambulance service for ER patients albeit costly is also impacting services at Kaiser-Modesto.

“We transfer six to eight patients a day,” said Gurpreet Dhillon of the Manteca ER.

At this alarming rate, he’s estimating about 1,900 transfers for this year alone.

The high rate of transfers is also creating a backlog, in turn, making it difficult for the real emergencies. “We can get them there but not in a timely manner,” Dhillon said.

Laura Owen in the Kaiser-Modesto ER added, “We’re seeing a lot more transfers coming in (from Manteca) – it’s really impacting our communities.”

Such grass-root efforts were successful in keeping the Oakland, Richmond and, most recently, the Hayward (pediatric) hospitals open, according to Hall.

In each case, the hospital supporters were successful in saving their respective facilities. They did so by rising up and making their voices heard by picketing against possible closures while forming steering committees.

Hall believes that those at Kaiser-Manteca can do likewise.

“We need to build a campaign,” he said. “But in order to do so, we need a lot of people with their own ideas (for the steering committee).”